Toronto, the Trade Mark (Maybe)

A friend sent me an ad from an airlines magazine, promoting Toronto as a place to visit. In tiny print (white on gray background) at the bottom, it says ‘Toronto is a trademark of the Toronto Convention and Visitors Association.”

Can this be?

Can none of us use the name of the city without the say-so of the Association? Can no one else advertise the many attractions of Toronto without its approval?

So far as I can see from the official trade marks register, the Association does not own “Toronto”. It owns a few marks that involve a design of the city skyline. A search for the mark rather than the owner comes up with about 1300 marks, the first few pages of which seem all to have been cancelled or withdrawn. But all of them use the name in connection with another mark, and most disclaim any exclusive rights to the name of the city.

The Association qualifies in some way as government, since its marks are ‘official marks’ (under s. 9 of the Act) rather than trade marks. Does that give it the right to a monopoly over the name, for any goods or services at all?

Is there a reasonable meaning at law to be given to the claim in the ad?

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