You can't spell "OPIR" without "IP" - My experience with the Trade-marks Opposition Board

You can't spell "OPIR" without "IP" - My experience with the Trade-marks Opposition Board

Annie Messerkhanian recently completed her second year of the J.D. program at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Having just completed my second year of study, I was acutely aware of the fact that I had only one year remaining within which to complete my Osgoode Public Interest Requirement (OPIR). Students at Osgoode Hall Law School, beginning with the class of 2010 and on, are required to complete OPIR hours in order to graduate. Rather than regarding this requirement as a chore, I tried to find something that I would be genuinely interested in. Every time I received one of the Professor Leiper's emails advertising various OPIR positions, I kept my eyes peeled for something that would capture my attention. When the email advertising a position at the Trade-marks Opposition Board (TMOB) came along, I jumped at the opportunity and was ultimately selected for the position. I knew that I wouldn't be completely in the dark, having recently taken courses in intellectual property and patents.

Immediately following exams, I packed up my car and made the trek to Gatineau, Quebec where the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is located. Not sure what to expect, I was quite surprised on my first day when I was immediately given my own s.45 summary expungement file and instructed to draft a decision. For those who are unfamiliar with this area of the law, anyone may ask the Registrar of Trade-marks to require a registrant (owner of a mark) to demonstrate "use" of their registered mark, within the definition of the Trade-marks Act, or else face summary expungement, whereby the registrant's mark is deleted from the register.  The rationale behind s.45 of the Trade-marks Act  is the clearing of "deadwood" from the register.

I immediately got to work and delved into endless volumes of the Canadian Patent Reporter to conduct my research. The s.45 and Opposition Officers were also extremely helpful in answering all of my questions and providing guidance in an area of trade-mark law that I knew virtually nothing about prior to my arrival at the TMOB. Initially, I was nervous about having to decide the fate of this poor unfortunate registrant whose file I'd been given. As I worked on my assignment, however, I became more confident in myself. Five days and three drafts later, my draft decision was complete.  Not only was this a crash course in a very specific area of the law, but it was also a challenging exercise in judicial writing.

During breaks from working on the draft decision, I was invited to attend a policy meeting as well as sit in on an opposition hearing. I can honestly say that I learned more in my time at the TMOB than I would have in a classroom setting. While the work could have been done remotely, I am glad that I chose to spend my time at the TMOB and take advantage of the available resources and the knowledge of the Officers.  I was not only able to complete my OPIR hours, but also capitalize on a unique educational opportunity.