Est-il correct d’envoyer des lettres d’information à des clients de votre compétiteur contrefacteur de votre invention avant d’aller en procès contre ce dernier?

Dans l’affaire M.K. Plastics Corporation v. Plasticair Inc., 2007 FC 574, (May 30, 2007), une affaire de contrefaçon de brevet, la défenderesse avait allégué que la demanderesse avait fait preuve de concurrence déloyale et de diffamation en informant les distributeurs de la défenderesse de la contrefaçon possible des produits qu’ils obtenaient de la défenderesse avant d’entamer des procédures judiciaires contre celle-ci.  Finalement la contrefaçon n’a pas été établie, mais la défenderesse n’a pas établi qu’elle avait subi des dommages suite à l’envoi de ces lettres. Donc, la demanderesse n’a pas été tenue responsable.  Cependant, cet exemple montre comment il faut faire attention dans sa stratégie d’envoi de lettres d’information à des clients de compétiteurs dans de telles situations afin d’éviter des conséquences fâcheuses par la suite, surtout si vos actions causent des dommages à votre compétiteur sans que votre position soit bien établie.

Voici des extraits pertinents de la décision:

UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICE

[125]      The defendant counterclaims against the plaintiff under section 7(a) of the Trade-marks Act for having made false and misleading statements tending to discredit the defendant’s business, wares and services.

[126]      The plaintiff wrote to the distributors of the defendant’s products, notifying of potential patent infringement of the ‘163 patent. The plaintiff wrote these letters before commencing an action for patent infringement, and prior to sending a “cease and desist” letter to the defendant. The defendant alleges that it has suffered damage as a result of the plaintiff’s acts.

[127]      The defendant submits that section 7(a) of the Trade-marks Act creates a statutory cause of action allowing for damages where a person is damaged by false or misleading statements by a competitor, irrespective of whether the statements were known to be false at the time, or were made maliciously.

[128]      The plaintiff submits that as the ‘163 patent was duly registered, the patent is presumed valid and the patentee is entitled to act on that basis (M & I Door Systems Ltd. v. Indoco Industrial  Door Co., [1989] 25 C.P.R. (3d) 477 (F.C.T.D.)).

[129]      It further submits that the tone of all of the letters was informative rather than threatening legal recourse against the recipients. Further, one letter is addressed to a person in Puerto Rico. Another letter is addressed to the to the defendant’s sales agent in Kansas, while a third one is addressed to the plaintiff’s own sales agent; none of these were the defendant’s clients or prospective clients.

[130]      The plaintiff submits that the first two letters were sent to parties outside of Canada, and therefore that the Trade-marks Act is inapplicable as the alleged contravening acts occurred extra-jurisdictionally. It also argues that there is no proof of a prejudice caused to the defendant, and as such the statements are not actionable.

[131]      I agree with the plaintiff that the first two letters sent to parties in Kansas and Puerto Rico are outside the scope of the Trade-marks Act and therefore do not provide grounds to support the cause of action alleged by the defendant in its counterclaim. I also find that the defendant has not established that the letter sent to the plaintiff’s sales agents caused it prejudice.

[132]      Consequently, I conclude that the defendant has not established the grounds necessary to make out its claim.

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