An Abbotsford man says he’ll take his lawsuit claiming rights to the “People’s Party of Canada” name to “the highest court in the land” if he has to, but he’s also considering changing the name of his party to participate in the next federal election.
Satinder Dhillon was ordered to pay the People’s Party of Canada $20,000 in a scathing ruling from a Federal Court judge that shut down a “nonsensical” motion to bar the party from using its name in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection.
Dhillon took the People’s Party and its leader, right-wing renegade and former Conservative Party leadership contender Maxime Bernier, to court in February claiming copyright and trademark of the name “People’s Party of Canada.”
Dhillon filed trademark and copyright applications in September, shortly following Bernier’s announcement that he was intending to create a party of the same name.
The hearing was only for an injunction ahead of the byelection, and Dhillon said he expects bring the matter to a full trial.
“We hold the copyright and trademark, and we have over 2,000 pages of evidence to support our claim,” Dhillon said, adding that the hearing reflected only a few hours in the courtroom.
A full trial would allow a judge to fully deliberate the evidence, he added.
But the ruling from the injunction hearing offered a glimpse into the court’s view of the parties’ arguments – and that view was not favourable to Dhillon.
But the Abbotsford man says he’s not going to take the ruling sitting down – he’ll take the matter to the “highest court in the land,” Dhillon said.
“I think the judge’s comments were unfair to say the least,” he said.
He added that by getting a copyright and trademark on the “People’s Party of Canada” name, he was doing what Elections Canada suggested to protect his claim to the name.
It’s not clear whether the Supreme Court of Canada would take his case – of the 600 applications the country’s top court receives per year, only about 80 are accepted, according to the SCC website. The Federal Court of Appeal, too, could pass on the lawsuit if it’s deemed “vexatious,” or an abuse of process.
In the meantime, given the proximity of the next federal election, Dhillon said he is considering changing the name of his party so he can participate in the election.
In the decision rendered earlier this month, Justice Roger Lafrenière determined that Dhillon fell “well short of establishing a serious issue to be tried or that they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunctive relief requested is not granted.”
“The entire premise of the Plaintiffs’ claim of copyright is nonsensical,” Lefrenière wrote.
The copyright registered for the People’s Party of Canada applies to “communication signals,” something that only a broadcaster can copyright. Dhillon claimed that by sharing a 2015 Times of Canada article in which he is quoted referencing a “People’s Party of Canada,” he counted as a broadcaster. Lefrenière was not convinced by that argument.
As for the trademark, the court ruled that, although Dhillon mentions a “People’s Party of Canada” in an article, it does not distinguish it as a political party.
Dhillon claimed to spend “countless hours building rapport, support and political clout” for his political party, but “the evidence before me suggests that the Plaintiffs have taken no active steps to promote their party since 2015,” Lafrenière wrote.
“After almost three years of apparent inactivity, the Plaintiffs rushed to protect their party’s name on the same day that the Defendants began promoting theirs. More likely than not, this is not a coincidence.”
Bernier’s party sought $40,000 in relief from Dhillon and his party, which countered that costs should be $5,000 to $7,000.
The court, however, landed near the middle, at $20,000.
“Given that the Defendants were entirely successful in resisting the confusing and essentially baseless motion, I conclude that costs should be awarded at an elevated scale.”
Martin Masse, a spokesperson for Bernier’s party, said it’s not clear at this point whether the matter will go to a full trial, as it depends on whether or not Dhillon intends to pursue the matter further.
Dean Davison, the lawyer representing Dhillon, has not responded to a request for comment.