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Quebec Court Denies Exclusive Use Of Geographic Location in Car Dealership’s Name

In the recent Superior Court of Quebec decision, 7531877 Canada ltée (Buckingham Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge) c 9531025 Canada Inc. (Buckingham Chevrolet Buick GMC), dated May 17, 2018, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant engaged in false advertising (name appropriation) by using “Buckingham” in its name and logo.

This case deals with tooth-and-nail battles between local car dealerships and the extent to which geographical names are trademarkable.

The plaintiff and the defendant are car dealerships. They are located approximately 600 meters apart in Masson-Angers, a borough of Gatineau, Quebec. Both dealerships market themselves as being located in Buckingham, a neighbouring borough in Gatineau. In February 2016, the defendant car dealership changed ownership. The new owner changed the name of the dealership from “Baurore Automobiles” to “Buckingham Chevrolet Buick GMC.”

The plaintiff petitioned the court for an injunction to prohibit the defendant from using “Buckingham” in its name and for any other related commercial purpose (including using “Buckingham” in association with any other car brands). The plaintiff claimed that the use of “Buckingham” may create confusion between the names of the two dealerships. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s claims. It argued that the use of “Buckingham” in its name does not create confusion and that the plaintiff cannot claim exclusive usage of a geographic location in its name. The defendant requested that the court declare the plaintiff’s action “abusive” and to order the plaintiff to reimburse its costs and pay $10,000.00 in punitive damages.

The court considered the likeness of the names and logos and held that the use of “Buckingham” in the defendant’s name did not create confusion between the two dealerships nor the type of cars they sold. It also found no justification for granting the plaintiff exclusive use of the word “Buckingham” in association with any other car brands. Finally, the court did not find the plaintiff’s action abusive and denied the defendant reimbursement of costs and punitive damages.