The Great Olympic Sweater Debate

Cowichan TMCourtesy of HBCAside from disputes over beer labels, you can’t get much more Canadian than this one.  When the Bay unveiled its line-up of Olympic gear last week, the knit sweater (pictured at left) attracted the attention of the Cowichan Band Council, who cried foul . The sweater, they complained, is a rip-off of the traditional Cowichan sweater which has been knitted by the Vancouver Island band for generations and has become something of a Canadian icon.  The Bay argued that theirs wasn’t a Cowichan knock-off, but was merely inspired by the design style. 

So, does the Band Council have a case for trade-mark infringement?  Probably not. The Band does indeed have several registered trade-marks, not for the design of the sweater, but for the words GENUINE COWICHAN, and the logo at right.  The design of the sweater itself is likely not protectable - there are countless variations of the design, even among genuine products.  As long as the Bay does not sell its sweaters with the words GENUINE COWICHAN or that logo, then it likely won’t infringe the Band’s marks.

Calgary - 10:45 MST

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