Montreal

Trademark ruling keeps red square student protest symbol public

The red square, a symbol made famous during the 2012 student protests in Quebec, cannot be trademarked, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has ruled.

Quebec entrepreneur tried to trademark symbol for line of clothing

Former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois took heart from the decision to keep the red square symbol public.

The red square, a symbol made famous during the 2012 student protests in Quebec, cannot be trademarked, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has ruled.

The decision by the agency's Trademark Opposition Board went against efforts by Quebec businessman Raymond Drapeau to register the symbol, which he was featuring on a line of polo shirts, T-shirts, hats and other items.

Drapeau tried to trademark the symbol when he realized no one had done so, but his application was contested by the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), one of the main student groups behind the 2012 protests.

"The red square is a powerful symbol in both the student community and society at large and it's essential that it remain a public good," said FECQ president Rose Crevier-Dagenais.

Former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who emerged as one of the main voices of the 2012 protests, said the decision is a positive development. 

"It's interesting to see a [decision-making body] rule that a private actor can't claim a symbol of citizen mobilization— that he can't take advantage of it to privately make money," he said.

While the decision is dated December 2015, the appeal period has now passed, meaning the legal saga that began more than two years ago is now over.

In a news release Monday, FECQ thanked intellectual property lawyer Harold Ashenmil, who represented the student group on a pro bono basis.

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