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Bitcoin Alliance of Canada Files Opposition to Attempt to Trademark Bitcoin

Op-ed - Bitcoin Alliance of Canada Files Opposition to Attempt to Trademark Bitcoin

The Bitcoin Alliance of Canada has made a filing with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office opposing an attempt to trademark the word “Bitcoin” in the country. The trademark attempt, filed by Neil K Adams on Dec 17, attempts to trademark the use of the term “Bitcoin” under, among other things, the categories of “computer programs and computer software for electronically trading traditional currency and virtual currency”, “currency exchange services”, “cash management” and “financial services, namely, providing secure payment options to members of an online community via a global computer network through the use of traditional currency and virtual currency”. One day after the request was filed, Stuart Hoegner, main legal and regulatory counsel of the Alliance, made a filing with the Trademarks Opposition Board asking the CIPO not to grant the trademark. The full text of the opposition filing reads:

The Bitcoin Alliance of Canada (BAC) has become aware that an applicant has applied to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for the “BITCOIN” word mark in Canada. This application has not been granted by CIPO.
We oppose this application. Bitcoin is, on its own, purely descriptive and not distinctive, and this application covers wares and services that go to the heart of the bitcoin protocol. We don’t object to trade-marks that help consumers differentiate among competing products and that protect producers’ valuable investments in reputation. However, the word “bitcoin,” all by itself, is a word that should be left in the public domain and free to the public to use. We believe that registration of this trade-mark in Canada would potentially inhibit the ability of Canadians to use this innovative new technology, stifle innovation, and impose unnecessary costs on Canadian merchants and consumers.
No other governmental authority of which we are aware has granted a trade-mark in respect of this single word with the breadth of wares and services included in this application.
Therefore, the BAC has drafted an open letter to CIPO regarding this application. The application can be found here [hyperlink]. We trust that CIPO will do its usual great work and seriously consider the legal standard for registration under the Trade-Marks Act. Intellectual property law should protect and foster true innovation – not become a redoubt for trolls and those trying to subvert the inventions of others.
The BAC was formed to promote, protect, and raise awareness of bitcoin use in Canada. We will continue to work with like-minded individuals and organizations to help this amazing technology benefit all Canadians.

The Bitcoin Alliance of Canada has been making considerable progress in the past month since it announced its upcoming conference in April and launched its new website. The organization already has several hundred members signed up, including a substantial portion of paid ($25 per year) and lifetime ($125) members, and new members are joining every day. Additionally, Toronto, one of the three largest cities in Canada in terms of Bitcoin adoption alongside Montreal and Vancouver, has recently gained its first Bitcoin-accepting restaurant: the Smoke Bourbon BBQ House west of Bathurst on Harbord Street. Between this, the Bitcoin Embassy’s partnership with the Bitcoin Foundation, the increasing interest in Bitcoin startups building Bitcoin debit cards and point of sale terminals and the massive media attention around Bitcoin ATMs, Canada is positioning itself to become one of the most promising locations for Bitcoin adoption in 2014.