Famous trademarks don't necessarily cover every product, says Supreme Court
OTTAWA (CP) - Barbie may tower over the children's doll market but her global reach doesn't extend to the restaurant business, says the Supreme Court of Canada.
Globally recognized trademarks don't necessarily straddle all possible goods and services just because of their fame, the court ruled Friday.
Mattel Inc., the American toy giant that makes Barbie, and French champagne purveyor Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin each sought to stop small Quebec-based businesses from encroaching on their registered trademarks.
The arguments of both iconic companies were rejected by the top court Friday.
"Famous marks do not come in one size," Justice Ian Binnie wrote in one of two lengthy and unanimous judgments.
So while some, such as Walt Disney, "may indeed have largely transcended product line differences," the circumstances for each brand must be weighed on its merits.
Mattel's Barbie and Veuve Clicquot, while hardly Mickey Mouse outfits, simply don't match Disney's product reach, Binnie suggested.
"At this stage, (the Barbie trademark's) fame is not enough to bootstrap a broad zone of exclusivity covering 'most consumer wares and services'," the justice wrote.
The ruling upheld lower court judgments that found that Barbie's - a small Montreal restaurant chain - did not infringe on Mattel's trademark.
Similarly, a six-store chain of women's clothiers called Les Boutiques Cliquot in Quebec and eastern Ontario was found to have neither infringed on Veuve Clicquot's trademark nor diminished the value of the champagne maker's brand.
Spiro Christopoulos, owner of the three Barbie's restaurants, called the decision "so great, it's fantastic. It's been a 12-year battle with Mattel and finally it's over.
"At first I was a little intimidated," added Christopoulos, who was also awarded court costs with his victory.
"But then I realized that if I was going to protect our business and name and the people working here, I'd have to defend it. So I took the challenge and it paid off."
The rulings, at heart, state that Canadian consumers are bright enough to tell a doll from a delicatessen, and champagne from a chemise.