By Eva Chan, Borden Ladner Gervais
Companies may be keen on using images of money on advertisements, websites, point of sale displays and other marketing materials. What companies may not know is that consent is required to use images of Canadian bank notes and coins to avoid contravening Canadian laws.
Canadian bank notes
The Bank of Canada (Bank) is the copyright owner of the images found on Canadian bank notes. In addition to a potential copyright claim, it is an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code to reproduce the likeness of a current bank note in circulation.
One can avoid being convicted under the Code if the likeness is:
The Bank’s Policy on the Reproduction of Bank Note Images (Policy) states that the Bank’s written consent must be obtained before a bank note image is reproduced to avoid the risk of potential criminal and civil consequences. The application procedure to obtain Bank approval includes, among other things, submitting (i) a statement of the purpose for copying a bank note image, (ii) a description of the proposed placement and distribution of the material featuring the bank note image, and (iii) a PDF of the proposed reproduction.
According to the Policy, the Bank ordinarily will consent to such reproductions if there is no risk that the reproduced image could be mistaken for a genuine bank note or misused by counterfeiters, and if the proposed use does not tarnish the dignity and importance of currency to Canadians.
When granting consent, the Bank ordinarily will impose conditions on the reproduction of bank note images. Examples of possible conditions include that the reproduction be in black and white, that it be coloured in a manner that is distinctly different from the main colours used on any current bank note in circulation, and/or that it be shown on a slant and not flat to the camera or naked eye.
The Policy states that the Bank’s consent to use bank note images for film or video purposes is not necessary provided that the images are intended to show a general indication of currency, and there is no danger the images could be misused. If there is any doubt as to whether consent is needed, it is safer to seek consent.
The Royal Canadian Mint (Mint) is the copyright owner of the images on Canadian coins. To use an image of a Canadian coin, one must apply to the Mint for approval. The application procedure includes submitting a visual layout of how the coin images will be used even if some visual and copy elements are not final. In some cases an administration fee and royalties may be payable to the Mint. If consent is granted, the applicant will receive a letter outlining the terms and conditions of use of the coin images.
The Bank and the Mint are also owners of official marks (as well as ordinary trade marks). Official marks are unique to Canada and arise under Section 9 of the Trade-marks Act (Canada) which allows for the recordal of such marks but only as the property of those who are public authorities in Canada (such as government agencies and departments, and public universities and colleges).
Official marks recorded under Section 9 cover all goods and services, cannot be opposed and do not need to be renewed; therefore, a company interested in using and/or registering a trade mark in Canada that is the same or confusingly similar to an official mark would need to seek consent from the owner of the official mark.