Note from Bears Matter: March 23, 2017 , There is an filing ,under my name, to oppose this ‘trade mark’ application by the Guide Outfitters Association of BC. I, Barb Murray, have been operating Bears Matter, a non-profit advocacy, since 2006. I will update this post when I have more information. I sincerely thank everyone who has supported myself and Bears Matter over many years and continues to do so as we go forward! Bear Hugs, Barb
Published: January 17, 2017
Updated: January 18, 2017 7:07 PM
A grizzly bear with a cub is on high alert near Whistler in August 2015. Photo by Richard MacKellar
Bears matter. Everyone agrees on that. But when it comes to who owns the legal rights to those two words, the debate is extending from the wilderness hunting grounds of B.C. all the way to the playing fields of the NFL.
The Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., which caters to foreign trophy hunters seeking to kill grizzlies and other big-game animals, has applied to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for the trademark rights to the name, Bears Matter.
Problem is, a long-standing B.C. environmental group opposed to the trophy hunt of bears already uses that name and plans to write the Property Office this week to officially register its opposition.
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, which is helping Bears Matter (bearsmatter.com) file its complaint, said in an interview it’s “galling” to think the outfitters might “steal their name.”
Labchuk said her client never formally registered the name: “They don’t have to be entitled to legal protections, though, as they can rely on common-law protections for their trademark as well. It’s pretty common that groups don’t formally register.”
The professional football team, the Chicago Bears, has already officially registered its opposition.
The Property Office website indicates that the outfitters filed for the name Bears Matter on Nov. 4, 2014, but that their bid was advertised in the Trade-marks Journal only on Oct. 12, 2016. The Chicago Bears filed its proposed opposition on Jan. 6, 2017, and received an extension of time to file its formal complaint until March 12, 2017.
Jim Christman, media relations manager for the team, didn’t respond to an interview request.
The growing controversy seems lost on Scott Ellis, executive director of the Surrey-based Guide Outfitters, who said that his group has registered all manner of domains and trademarks over the years.
Among them: Conservation Matters, registered in 2014; Knock Your Socks Off, 2009; Mountain Hunter, 2011; Wildlife Stewardship is our Priority, 2011; and Fair Chase … No Fences, 2011. The organization hosts three websites — goabc.org, mountainhuntermagazine.com and bearsinbc.com.
“It’s part of our business process to protect whatever intellectual property we have,” he said. “We bundle as much around to drive traffic to bears in B.C. as we can. We’re not trying to get any name from anyone. I don’t know anything about the environmental group, Bears Matter. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He added: “I would much rather talk that bears matter than someone’s trademark. That’s all crap.”
Established by Barb Murray of Nanoose Bay in 2006, Bears Matter says in a mission statement posted online: “We are B.C. voters speaking up for grizzly bears who are still being legally killed.” It supports Pacific Wild’s petition to Premier Christy Clark to ban the grizzly trophy hunt.
Murray said she was very active on the grizzly trophy hunt issue in 2014 and finds it hard to believe the outfitters don’t know of her group.
She said she never registered Bears Matter as a non-profit society to issue tax-deductible receipts because it would have restricted her political activism on bear issues.