Cynthia Brick and her husband Fred in their store, Brick’s Fine Furniture, in 2002 in Winnipeg.
Trademark law is a sleeping tiger
f there is an area of the law that corporations can often neglect in the haste of daily corpo-
rate life, it is trademark law. Intellectual property is a corporate asset, and like any asset, it
needs to be protected. Be it a new corporate rebranding exercise, a new product launch, or
expanding the corporate market into the United States, not only must a trademark search
be done to determine the mark’s availability, but registration of the trademark is vital to the process
of staking rights to the mark.
Perhaps the best learning tool I’ve read that highlights these points is the
In 1969, the husband and wife team of Cynthia and Frederick Brick opened a high-end furniture
store in Winnipeg under the name Brick’s Fine Furniture. They did not register the word Brick as
a trademark. Brick Warehouse Corp. is a national chain of more modestly priced furniture stores.
They opened their first store in 1977 under the name THE BRICK, and around that time filed a
number of trademark applications, all of which included the word Brick.
In 1988, Brick Warehouse expanded its operations into Winnipeg and sent Cynthia and Fred-
erick Brick a demand letter, requiring them to stop using the word Brick as part of their business
name. Alleging trademark infringement, Brick Warehouse based its claim on the fact that the
grants the holder of a registered trademark the exclusive right to use that mark
throughout Canada in association with related wares/services. The demand letter was sent despite
the fact that Brick’s Fine Furniture had carried on business under that name since 1969, some eight
years before the Brick Warehouse began using the word Brick as part of its trademark.
Cynthia and Frederick Brick refused to comply, and Federal Court proceedings were initiat-
ed. In 1992, the legal battle ended with the two parties agreeing to co-exist in Winnipeg. Fred-
erick Brick told
The Canadian Press
at the time that his legal bills were more than $170,000,
By Eric Swetsky
KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
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