City of Terrace takes Kelowna distillery to court

Dispute centres around the use of the term Spirit Bear which Terrace and Kitasoo First Nation have trademarked

THE use of the term 'spirit bear' by an Okanagan distillery has resulted in a federal court action.

THE city of Terrace and Kitasoo First Nation have filed a joint claim in a federal court against the owner of a distillery in southern B.C for producing a line of gin and vodka called Spirit Bear.

The Spirit Bear name was trademarked in a joint agreement between Terrace and Kitasoo First Nation back in 2004 and the city’s corporate administrator Alisa Thompson said the current court action against Urban Distilleries of Kelowna is to enforce a legal right to the trademark.

“We want to preserve the integrity of the term spirit bear,” said Thompson. “In particular the issue is the use of it for an alcoholic beverage. We felt that is too much of a negative connotation.”

Thompson said the city has been trying to resolve the issue since early spring and had asked the Urban Distilleries to phase out the Spirit Bear name once they had sold their current stock.

Thompson said the city and the Kitasoo band are not seeking damages, but are taking court action to ensure the company complies with their previous request to cease using the name.

“As long as it gets done in a reasonable period of time we are willing to come to some sort of resolution. They are not interested, as is there choice. So we are taking action which is part of our policy to defend abuse and unauthorized use of our trademark.”

The provincial government also owns trademark rights to the Spirit Bear name, having applied to use it in their government publications back in 2006.

The lawsuit is focused on the use of the term Spirit Bear, and not the image of the white bear, as this was not part of the trademark agreement.

“The city has a long standing association with the Spirit Bear, the Kermode bear, whatever you want to call it, and it’s part of our image. It’s important for the Kitisoo as well,” said Thompson.




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