In 1999, De Niro’s Supper Club was a popular restaurant establishment in downtown Vancouver. At the time, the city was experiencing a large commercial growth in the film industry and often referred to as “Hollywood North”. Unfortunately for the owners of De Niro’s Supper Club, the popularity of the establishment and of the city’s recognition with the film industry garnished the attention of the actor, Robert De Niro.
Not wanting his name associated with the restaurant, De Niro threatened to sue the owners under section 3 of the BC Privacy Act, which creates an actionable claim if a person uses someone else’s name to promote their business or sales. The restaurant cleverly changed its name to “Section (3)” in response.
De Niro could have also sued under section 9(k) of the Canadian Trade-Marks Act, which prohibits adopting a business name which falsely suggests a connection with any living individual. Had the restaurant also used De Niro’s portrait or signature, the actor could have sued under section 9(l) of the Trade-Marks Act, which prohibits the use of same for living individuals or those deceased within the last 30 years.
Unfortunately Section (3) no longer operates in Vancouver, but it taught us all a great lesson in trade-mark law.
To learn more about trade-marks, contact me.