An Abbotsford man has filed a lawsuit with Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, claiming the newly formed party has infringed on a trademark he registered in September.
Bernier cut his former ties with the Conservative Party after losing to Andrew Scheer a vote to lead that party into this year’s election. In September, Bernier announced he would be creating a new party: The People’s Party of Canada.
But Abbotsford resident Satinder Singh Dhillon has filed a statement of claim with the Federal Court of Canada to “take back the name ‘People’s Party of Canada,’ ” according to a news release.
“The byelection underway in Burnaby is the first time the other party using our name has put forward a candidate, so it was critical we file for an injunction to show Mr. Bernier and anyone in his party that we are serious,” Dhillon said in a statement. “So far, they have ignored the cease-and-desist letter sent last month by our Chief Agent, Mr. [Emmet] Pierce.”
Dhillon also filed for a judicial review of Elections Canada’s chief elections officer’s decision to approve Bernier’s application to use the name People’s Party of Canada, stating that it is a copyright and trademark infringement.
Because Bernier’s party is running a candidate in the Burnaby South byelection coming on Feb. 25, Dhillon’s lawyer, Dean Davison of Davison Law Group in Vancouver, says “there is some urgency” to getting the judicial review in front of a judge.
“I don’t know how prepared Mr. Bernier or his party is to deal with this quickly. Hopefully they are prepared and we can get into court within weeks or days,” Davison said.
“If not, there is the big election, which really is the main issue. So hopefully as soon as we can.”
Dhillon registered “People’s Party of Canada” as a copyright on Sept. 18, 2018, according to the federal government’s copyright registry. That registration notes the “People’s Party of Canada” name was first published with links to Dhillon on July 1, 2015.
In a July 2015 article in The Times of Canada, a news magazine focusing on the South Asian community, Dhillon said he founded an anti-corruption movement in Canada.
“The PPC (People’s Party of Canada) is not about politics, it is much more than that. It is a movement to inform the citizens about what is really going on in this country,” Dhillon is quoted saying in the article posted online in 2015.
Davison said part of Dhillon’s claim hinges on that 2015 quote.
“At that point he gained some rights just by the usage,” Davison said in an interview with The News.
According to the federal government’s trademark registry, Satinder Dhillon of Abbotsford filed a trademark application for the name “People’s Party of Canada” on Sept. 14, 2018, the same day that Bernier publicly announced his new party.
Davison said the timing of the trademark application was an attempt to protect the name after Bernier announced his new party.
“He said to Elections Canada … ‘What could I do to protect my name?’ They said, ‘Go and get a copyright and a trademark.’ So he did,” Davison said.
On Sept. 20, 2018, the trademark was formalized, according to the federal government website.
According to the registry, the “People’s Party of Canada” is trademarked under class 38 (telecommunications), which “includes mainly services allowing at least one person to communicate with another by sensory means.”
In an email statement, Martin Masse, spokesperson for Bernier’s party, said the party is “confident that our party was registered in accordance with the rules and that these lawsuits have no legal basis.”
Dhillon filed the “People’s Party of Canada” name with Elections Canada on Sept. 25, 2018, three weeks before Bernier filed his application, Davison said.
In order to formalize the name of the party, Elections Canada requires at least 250 people to confirm their support in print by mail or in person. Dhillon’s lawsuit claims Bernier’s geographical proximity to the Elections Canada offices in Quebec gave him an advantage to filing his full paperwork.
He also claims that Elections Canada didn’t take into account a postal strike, which began in October, that could have delayed Dhillon’s filings.
“It is also significant that Mr. Bernier’s very public discussion of the party name during his application period concerned some of Mr. Dhillon’s supporters, who did not want to unintentionally sign up as a supporter of the other party. That further slowed Mr. Dhillon’s application and damaged his interests,” Davison said.
Although the claim is that Elections Canada did not take those factors into account, Davison acknowledged that the federal elections agency may have evidence that could contradict that.