General counsel slips

York University subway station causes the counsel of York University to have a freak-out

the TTC’s York University subway station, set to open in 2015. design by Astrid Idlewild

In what could best be described as a public relations folly, York University counsel have aggressively contended that the station design for York University is a threat to their trademark. We disagree.

In response, we wrote the following:

No component of the t-shirt design used for “Where are you, Toronto’s York University Station: 2015 extension” … violates any existing arms, crests, flags, brand marks, word marks, tag lines, slogans, type treatments, colour languages, campaigns, or any other components of the York University corporate identity as registered with CIPO.

In short, we argue that no visible relationship exists between the subway station design and any kind of trademarked logo or visual representation which has anything to do with the academic institution whose name rhymes with “fork.” There is no way an observer — trained or not — could look at the York University station design and think, “Oh gosh, York must really be going after a new, transit-like look these days.”

photo by Neal Jennings

So we continued our reply by outlining how this station, now under construction, is known officially as “York University” and, in this capacity, is wholly outside the scope of their claim. This was coupled with a series of photos and documents which document the history of this station’s name. In legalese, it can be described this way:

Application of the two words, “York University,” in the context of the “York University Station: 2015 extension” t-shirt design, is the generally accepted totum pro parte use of the phrase “York University” with reference to the subway station to serve the region adjacent to the York University campus (near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue, in the North York area of Toronto). This station name, “York University,” was publicly chosen as a transportation place metonym à priori any development of the “Where are you, Toronto?” apparel designs. As with every other variant in the “Where are you, Toronto?” apparel series, words used on each design references verbatim the names of existing or pending subway stations.

In other words, when the York University subway station opens in 2015 and someone refers to “York University [station]” as a starting point or destination, they are referring to the subway station nearest to York (the university) even if where they need to go is not related to the academic institution itself or anywhere on its campus. With more nearby residential development anticipated once this station is opened, it will increasingly be the case that “York University”, for this purpose, is a bona fide example of common usage beyond the scope of trademark — much the way that Montréal STM’s Métro station, Université-de-Montréal, goes well beyond any scope of trademark.

map mockup prepared by Stephen Michalowicz

The York University station design will, at least temporarily, not be part of the station series — despite the case that it is indeed part of the forthcoming Yonge-University-Spadina line.

Follow Fork’s Pork’s York’s logic. Or at least try.


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