Ashley Joannou

Published:October 20, 2021

-Edmonton Journal


The union representing RCMP officers is trying to throw up a roadblock for the province by seeking to trademark names for a hypothetical provincial police force

Online records show that the National Police Federation applied to the Canadian Intellectual Property Offices to trademark “Alberta Police Force,” “Alberta Police Department,” “Alberta Provincial Police,” “Alberta Police Service,” and “Alberta Provincial Police Service” last February. The applications are still being examined and no date has been set for a decision.

The Alberta government is still mulling over the idea of creating its own police force and ending its contract with the RCMP, something Premier Jason Kenney has said would allow for officers who are more familiar with the community where they work. T he union claims the move to a provincial police force would end up end up costing more for less service.

In a written statement, National Police Service president Brian Sauvé said the union’s move to apply for the trademarks wasn’t made for monetary reasons.

“We don’t believe it should be easy for Premier Kenney to proceed unchallenged along the path of this politically-motivated proposal to replace the RCMP with a new provincial police service — which public polling tells us just isn’t what Albertans want, and continues to lack any transparency and accountability,” he said.

But at least one expert in intellectual property law suggests that the applications won’t create much of a challenge for the government at all. Cameron Hutchison, a professor at the University of Alberta who teaches intellectual property law, said the union won’t be granted the trademarks.

Words like “police” would be considered descriptors, he said, and those can’t be trademarked in most cases because they would impact competitors.

“Normally, you have competitors and people who want to use the same word for their products. We have Pears soap or Dove soap, right? We don’t want to allow trademarks over (the word) soap because then nobody else can use them,” he said.

He said the names will also likely not be trademarked because they wrongly suggest that the union is itself a police force.

“So either one of those would be a bar to getting a trademark, and I don’t see how they clear that hurdle,” he said.

Even if for some reason the trademarks are registered, Hutchison said it would be easy for the government to go to court and get them de-registered because the union isn’t using the names and because, as a publicly-funded government, Alberta has the special authority to adopt marks like those names.

“I mean, they would have to go to federal court to do that, but once they got there it wouldn’t be difficult to do. It’s not a grey legal question or anything it’s pretty open and shut,” he said.

Hutchison said he doesn’t understand what the union is trying to accomplish and that applying for the trademarks is a waste of money.

“I don’t see what this is accomplishing other than a PR move,” he said.

The union’s statement did not say whether they believe they will be granted the trademarks.

The government has faced criticism over the idea of an Alberta police force. Both municipalities and the union have pushed for Alberta to provide details on how much the change would cost and publicly release a study that is being done on the issue.

In a statement to Postmedia, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said no decisions have been made and the government will be conducting further engagement including with Indigenous communities and municipalities.

“The government will not be deterred by petty attempts of obstruction. Any decision will ultimately be made in the best interest of Albertans,” he said.