Wednesday • 2015.10.07
Three Months Later, Pride Toronto “Dyke” and “Trans” Trademark Applications Are Still Active
It has been just over three months since Pride Toronto applied for legal trademark ownership over the terms “Dyke March” and “Trans* Pride.”
Following national outrage from Dyke and Trans* organizations, Pride Toronto promised to withdraw those trademark applications in a statement published on July 19th. “Over the next few days, our organization will work with lawyers to remove the applications for trademarks by Pride Toronto.”
Representatives of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) contacted by telephone in July, and again on October 6th, stated that a trademark application can be withdrawn by a simple letter from the applicant, in a process called “voluntary abandonment.”
Both representatives also confirmed that once an abandonment letter is received, trademarks would be processed out of the system in “two to three weeks.”
As of October 6th, it has been over eleven weeks since Pride Toronto’s July 19th promise to rescind the applications, and the trademarks for “Dyke March” and “Trans* Pride” remain present in the CIPO system with a status of “Formalized.” CIPO representatives explain that if left to process, both marks will enter the “Published” status. When that happens, community groups, individuals and organizations will have only two months to file an opposition against them, a process that will cost $750 per trademark opposed.
Pride Toronto’s Director of Communications Victoria Schwarzl was contacted by telephone and email on July 31st, and again by email on October 6th, and asked whether Pride Toronto has sent a letter to remove the trademark applications in accordance with their July 19th promise. The July messages were acknowledged, but the question left unanswered. However, Schwarzl replied on October 6th, saying “I did speak with (Pride Toronto Executive Director) Mathieu (Chantelois), who indeed confirmed that a letter was sent to remove our application.”
Chantelois has previously stated that the trademark applications were made as a defence mechanism on behalf of the Dyke and Trans communities, against an unspecified community “individual.” He has claimed in various interviews, at one point using female pronouns, that the individual had threatened to make the trademarks herself and had been raising the money to do so.
Pride Toronto has consistently refused to identify the person in question, nor to demonstrate any evidence that the allegations made by Chantelois are true, and it is unlikely Pride will be forthcoming on these points in the future according to Schwarzl. “Mathieu would rather put this story behind and move forward, he will not be answering any more questions around this.”
Pride Toronto has reassured the community in public statements that they would not use their ownership of the terms to stifle expression or organization in the Dyke and Trans communities. Chantelois told Metro on July 19th that Pride has no desire to own them, and wouldn’t stop other organizations from using them. However, a vendor from Pride Toronto’s street fair has come forward alleging that Pride Toronto has already used a legal trademark to bully them in the past, over the sale of merchandise and crafts bearing the word “Pride.”
“(We were) selling hand-made products,” says Max Kent. “We were told that none of our products could have the word ‘Pride’ on them or their packaging… because (Pride Toronto) held exclusivity… over the word ‘Pride.'”
In fact, this is true. The Canadian Trademark registry reveals that Pride Toronto previously registered national corporate trademark ownership of the word “PRIDE,” first for “clothing, namely shirts” in 2000, and then later for a swath of many other product types in 2003.
“We were… blown away by it,” explains Kent. “Especially since the things that we had that said ‘Pride’ on them were ($3) pins that we made to help support Brockville Pride, which is significantly smaller than (Pride Toronto). But they were like ‘nope, you can’t have it.'”
Kent’s experience reveals that Pride Toronto not only can, but has, used the practice of corporate trademark ownership to attack or restrict the actions of smaller groups and organizations. In the case of Kent’s Brockville Pride fundraising pins, the action was apparently geared toward increasing Pride Toronto’s street fair merchandise revenues. This might prove to be of further concern to Dyke and Trans activists, should the two new trademark applications make it to the “Published” stage before a trademark withdrawal letter of voluntary abandonment is processed.