Humboldt man campaigning to have Sask. junior hockey league drop #HumboldtStrong trademark application

The slogan #HumboldtStrong has always been about Humboldt, the Saskatchewan community and its strength as members make their journey to recovery in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, according to one resident.

The league applied for trademark of #HumboldtStrong slogan and sticks on the porch movement

On April 10, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League entered into a partnership with clothing company 22Fresh to sell Humboldt Strong shirts, which were priced at $34.99 a shirt and have sold out. (22Fresh)

The slogan #HumboldtStrong has always been about Humboldt, the Saskatchewan community and its strength as members make their journey to recovery in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, according to one resident.

Michael Behiel started a campaign recruiting people to contact the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and attempt to persuade the league to cancel its trademark application for the #HumboldtStrong slogan. 

It totally steals away the whole purpose of what this symbolizes.- Michael Behiel, Humboldt resident and councillor

"It just angers me when I see something like this, the SJHL who never even consulted the Broncos and went ahead and started producing shirts … [claiming] they're trying to do this to stop unauthorized production of merchandise when they're the biggest offenders themselves," Behiel said.

"It totally steals away the whole purpose of what this symbolizes." 

Behiel is a city councillor in Humboldt but said he is not acting in that capacity when it comes to the campaign.

On April 10, the SJHL entered into a partnership with clothing company 22Fresh to sell "Humboldt Strong" shirts, which sold out at $34.99 per shirt. 

SJHL president Bill Chow told CBC News that he made the application with the Broncos in mind. Money from the sales went into the league's assistance program, which was created to provide mental health support for its players.

Behiel was at the local crisis centre in the three days after the collision. He said the people there were doing what they could to help, sharing emotional support and donating items like food and supplies.

"That's Humboldt Strong, the strength the community has shown as a whole to get through this tragedy together."

Broncos could file its own application: lawyer

Generally, the right to something belongs to whoever uses it first, according to Toronto-based lawyer and trademark expert Alison Hayman. Hayman said someone can also file a trademark application if they intend to use the trademark.

"There is a not-very-frequently-used provision in the [Trade-marks Act] which allows someone to oppose on the basis that applicant couldn't have been satisfied that it was entitled to the mark," Hayman told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

For that to succeed, the Trademarks Opposition Board would need to be shown there was some bad faith on behalf of the applicant when the application was made, Hayman said.

She said it's not uncommon for a league to apply for a trademark of its teams and then license the marks to the team.

"This doesn't seem like a case where the town or the hockey team should be prevented from receiving some benefit from the marks or using this mark and the others [the SJHL] filed for themselves," Hayman said.

The Broncos could file their own trademark if they wished, but they'd be behind the SJHL in the queue and it could get blocked as well, she said.

Sixteen people died after the Broncos team bus and a semi-truck collided on April 6, between Nipawin and Tisdale. The Broncos were on their way to face the Nipawin Hawks in a playoff game.

The Hawks would eventually go on to win the league championship. 

With files from Emily Pasiuk and CBC Radio's The Morning Edition

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