Decisions > Federal Court Decisions > International Taekwon-Do Federation v. Choi

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Date: 20061205

Docket: T-2108-02

Citation: 2006 FC 1459

Ottawa, Ontario, December 5, 2006

PRESENT:     The Honourable Mr. Justice O'Reilly

 

 

BETWEEN:

INTERNATIONAL TAEKWON-DO FEDERATION

and the CANADIAN TAEKWON-DO FEDERATION INTERNATIONAL

FEDERATION CANADIENNE DE TAEKWON-DO INTERNATIONAL

Applicants

and

 

JUNG HWA CHOI

and

HUNG HI CHOI and JUNG HWA CHOI, A JOINT VENTURE TRADING AS I.T.F. TAEKWON-DO and THE REGISTRAR OF TRADEMARKS

 

Respondents

 

REASONS FOR JUDGMENT AND JUDGMENT

 

[1]               The applicants, the International Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) and its Canadian affiliate, the Canadian Taekwon-do Federation International (CTFI), argue that certain trade-marks registered by the respondents are invalid and should be removed from the trade-mark register. The respondents consist of a former officer of the ITF, Mr. Jung Hwa Choi, as well as a joint venture between him and his father, Mr. Hung Hi Choi, the founder and former president of the ITF, now deceased. The applicants submit that the respondents registered marks that the applicants had been using for decades, both in Canada and throughout the world. The respondents did not appear at the hearing, and filed no written arguments.

[2]               I agree that the trade-marks are invalid and I will grant the applicants’ request to have them struck from the register, pursuant to s. 57 of the Trade-marks Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. T-13, s. 57 (relevant provisions of the Act are set out in Annex A).

I.        Issues

[3]               The applicants advanced several grounds for their position. Many of these grounds are interrelated and can be reduced to the following question: Were the respondents entitled to register the marks?

 

II.     Analysis

 

(a)    Factual background

 

[4]               Mr. Hung Hi Choi (referred to as General Choi) developed the martial art of Taekwon-Do in Korea during the 1940s. He established the ITF in 1966 and acted as its president from then until his death in 2002. Mr. Jung Hwa Choi (referred to as Master Choi), General Choi’s son, was slated to assume the presidency after his father, but was expelled from the ITF in 2002. At the time, he was Secretary General of the ITF.

 

[5]               The ITF acts as the international governing body for Taekwon-Do. It has used two main emblems, both created by General Choi, to identify itself: (1) a crest including a fist and the words “International Taekwon-do Federation”, as well some Korean characters; and (2) a design resembling a tree, with Korean characters making up the trunk and the word “Taekwon-Do” forming the crown (the two designs are shown in Annex B). The ITF and CTFI have used these images on training uniforms, documents and advertising beginning in 1966.

 

[6]               The respondent joint venture registered these two images, the fist design and the tree design, as Canadian trade-marks, in relation to wares in 1998 (trade-marks 500,361 and 500,055 respectively), and for services in 2000 (trade-marks 522,295 and 522,294 respectively). The 1998 marks are currently owned by Master Choi.

 

(b)   The respondents’ entitlement to register the marks

 

[7]               It is clear that the applicants have used the fist and tree designs for some time. They argue, therefore, that the respondents were not entitled to register those designs as trade-marks. The joint venture was not created until the mid-1990s, so it could not have used the marks prior to those dates. By contrast, the ITF has used the fist design since 1966. The ITF and CTFI have used the tree design since at least 1986.

 

[8]               Further, the applicants suggest that the respondents could not register the marks on their own, given that Master Choi and General Choi were both officers of the ITF at the time. They had a duty to act in the best interests of the ITF. Further, their connection to the ITF was comparable to an agent-principal relationship, in which the actions of the agent should enure to the benefit of the principal. In other words, the applicants argue that the respondents could have registered the trade-marks for the benefit of the ITF, but could not do so independently.

 

[9]               The applicants also argue that the registered marks lack the essential criterion of distinctiveness. Given that the identical marks were being used by the ITF and the CTFI, they could not be said to be distinctive of the respondents’ wares and services.

 

[10]           Finally, the applicants submit that the respondents made false statements in the course of obtaining the trade-mark registrations – in particular, statements about past or future use of the marks. They argue that the registrations are invalid on that ground as well.

 

[11]           I find that the circumstances in this case are analogous to those described in Citrus Growers Assn. Ltd. v. William D. Branson Ltd. (1990), 36 C.P.R. (3d) 434, a case involving an agent and principal. Justice Paul Rouleau stated that “an importer or agent has no right to register a trade mark owned by the foreign principal, under his own name and for his own benefit” (at p. 438). He continued:

The cases have reached this conclusion in a variety of ways: prior use by the foreign supplier in Canada (s. 16(1)(a)); no “use” by the importer/agent in Canada within the meaning of sections 4 and 16, since its use  was on behalf of the principal; the mark is not distinctive of the wares of the respondent (s. 18(1)(b)); and, generally, the respondent is not the person entitled to registration of the mark, on the grounds of the fiduciary obligation existing between the agent and his principal. (p. 438)

 

 

 

[12]           The applicants’ submissions here are much to the same effect: The respondents are not entitled to register the trade-marks because the images would be confused with marks that had been previously used by the applicants (contrary to ss. 16(1)(a) and 16(3)(a)) of the Act). Any use of the marks by the respondents should be interpreted as use on behalf of the applicants, given that General Choi and Master Choi were officers of the ITF, and had a fiduciary duty towards it. The registered marks cannot be said to be distinctive of the respondents’ wares or services, given the applicants’ prior use of the same marks in relation to identical wares and services (contrary to s. 18(1)(b)).

 

[13]           Based on these arguments, I am satisfied that the registered marks are invalid. I realize that I have not dealt specifically with the applicants’ additional argument about alleged false statements by the respondents. No direct authority was cited to me on the point, so I decline to deal with it.

 

[14]           I will, therefore, declare that the registered marks (No.500,055, 500,361, 522,294 and 522,295) are invalid and should be struck from the register, with costs to the applicants. The applicants asked for costs on a solicitor-client basis, given that the respondents’ conduct involves a breach of a fiduciary duty. However, I am not satisfied that the circumstances justify such an extraordinary cost measure.

 


 

JUDGMENT

            THIS COURT’S JUDGMENT IS that:

1.         The registered marks (No.500,055, 500,361, 522,294 and 522,295) are invalid and should be struck from the register, with costs to the applicants.

 

 

“James W. O’Reilly”

Judge


Annex “A”

 

Trade-marks Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. T-13

 

 

Registration of marks used or made known in Canada

 

16. (1) Any applicant who has filed an application in accordance with section 30 for registration of a trade-mark that is registrable and that he or his predecessor in title has used in Canada or made known in Canada in association with wares or services is entitled, subject to section 38, to secure its registration in respect of those wares or services, unless at the date on which he or his predecessor in title first so used it or made it known it was confusing with

(a) a trade-mark that had been previously used in Canada or made known in Canada by any other person;

 

 

 

Proposed marks

(3) Any applicant who has filed an application in accordance with section 30 for registration of a proposed trade-mark that is registrable is entitled, subject to sections 38 and 40, to secure its registration in respect of the wares or services specified in the application, unless at the date of filing of the application it was confusing with

(a) a trade-mark that had been previously used in Canada or made known in Canada by any other person;

 

When registration invalid

 

18. (1) The registration of a trade-mark is invalid if

…,

(b) the trade-mark is not distinctive at the time proceedings bringing the validity of the registration into question are commenced, or

 

 

Exclusive jurisdiction of Federal Court

 

57. (1) The Federal Court has exclusive original jurisdiction, on the application of the Registrar or of any person interested, to order that any entry in the register be struck out or amended on the ground that at the date of the application the entry as it appears on the register does not accurately express or define the existing rights of the person appearing to be the registered owner of the mark

 

 

Restriction

 

 

(2) No person is entitled to institute under this section any proceeding calling into question any decision given by the Registrar of which that person had express notice and from which he had a right to appeal.

Loi sur les marques de commerce, L.R.C. 1985, ch. T-13

 

Enregistrement des marques employées ou révélées au Canada

 

16. (1) Tout requérant qui a produit une demande selon l’article 30 en vue de l’enregistrement d’une marque de commerce qui est enregistrable et que le requérant ou son prédécesseur en titre a employée ou fait connaître au Canada en liaison avec des marchandises ou services, a droit, sous réserve de l’article 38, d’en obtenir l’enregistrement à l’égard de ces marchandises ou services, à moins que, à la date où le requérant ou son prédécesseur en titre l’a en premier lieu ainsi employée ou révélée, elle n’ait créé de la confusion :

a) soit avec une marque de commerce antérieurement employée ou révélée au Canada par une autre personne;

[…]

Marques projetées

(3) Tout requérant qui a produit une demande selon l’article 30 en vue de l’enregistrement d’une marque de commerce projetée et enregistrable, a droit, sous réserve des articles 38 et 40, d’en obtenir l’enregistrement à l’égard des marchandises ou services spécifiés dans la demande, à moins que, à la date de production de la demande, elle n’ait créé de la confusion :

a) soit avec une marque de commerce antérieurement employée ou révélée au Canada par une autre personne;

 

Quand l’enregistrement est invalide

 

18. (1) L’enregistrement d’une marque de commerce est invalide dans les cas suivants :

[…]

b) la marque de commerce n’est pas distinctive à l’époque où sont entamées les procédures contestant la validité de l’enregistrement;

 

Juridiction exclusive de la Cour fédérale

 

57. (1) La Cour fédérale a une compétence initiale exclusive, sur demande du registraire ou de toute personne intéressée, pour ordonner qu’une inscription dans le registre soit biffée ou modifiée, parce que, à la date de cette demande, l’inscription figurant au registre n’exprime ou ne définit pas exactement les droits existants de la personne paraissant être le propriétaire inscrit de la marque.

 

Restriction

 

(2) Personne n’a le droit d’intenter, en vertu du présent article, des procédures mettant en question une décision rendue par le registraire, de laquelle cette personne avait reçu un avis formel et dont elle avait le droit d’interjeter appel.

 


Annex “B”

 

 

The image “file:///M:/logos.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

                        Fist Design                                                                   Tree design

 


FEDERAL COURT

 

NAME OF COUNSEL AND SOLICITORS OF RECORD

 

 

 

DOCKET:                                          T-2108-02

 

STYLE OF CAUSE:                       INTERNATIONAL TAEKWON-DO FEDERATION, ET AL v. CHOI, ET AL

 

 

PLACE OF HEARING:                    Toronto, Ontario

 

DATE OF HEARING:                      November 21, 2006

 

REASONS FOR JUDGMENT

 AND JUDGMENT:                         O’REILLY J.

 

DATED:                                             December 5, 2006

 

 

 

APPEARANCES:

 

Warren Sprigings

 

FOR THE APPLICANTS

Unrepresented

FOR THE RESPONDENTS

 

SOLICITORS OF RECORD:

 

HITCHMAN & SPRIGINGS

Toronto, ON

FOR THE APPLICANTS

 

UNREPRESENTED

 

FOR THE RESPONDENTS

 

 

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Date Modified: 2014-07-28