Ford Motor Co. has said it will protect its script and oval logo from being used by supporters of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford – a move that will have to be taken carefully so the company isn’t seen in a negative light, says Toronto IP lawyer John Simpson.
Ford, who has admitted to buying illegal drugs while in office, using crack cocaine and being drunk in public, recently signed shirts for the public stamped with the words "Ford Nation," incorporating the automaker's logo, the Hamilton Spectator reports.
In the report, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman says the use of the logo was not permitted, and is being viewed as an unauthorized use of the trademark.
“I think the issue here is more specific than just unauthorized use of a trademark, because usually with unauthorized use of a trademark – by, for instance, a competitor – the issue is that people are going to be confused or that the use of the trademark is going to dilute the distinctiveness in your market,” says Simpson.
“What this is about is use of a trademark that brings down the value of the goodwill – it depreciates the value of the goodwill associated with the trademark.”
Simpson says there are few cases about s. 22, the section of the Trademarks Act that addresses this type of situation.
“Often in cases like this, big brand companies have to tread very carefully when they try to stop non-competitive uses of their trademarks, because it can backfire,” he says. “If it’s not obvious what the harm is to the company, the public will perceive it as mean-spirited and bullying which can lead to a lot of bad publicity.”
Simpson says the initial question companies will likely ask is “Is the harm being caused here so bad that it’s going to offset any negative publicity we get over taking action?”
In this case, Simpson says it’s likely the company thinks the public will understand why it doesn’t want its logo associated with the mayor.