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Canadian Mint Claims Rights To Words "One Cent" 286

knorthern knight writes "A weird intersection of copyright/trademark with politics is playing out in Canada. Short background: various Canadian cities and municipalities have launched a publicity/lobbying campaign seeking a fixed take from the GST (Goods and Services Tax, a national Canadian sales tax similar to European VAT). The amount sought is 1 cent for each dollar of the purchase price. This is summarized by the slogan 'One Cent of the GST NOW.' According to a press release, the Royal Canadian Mint (the federal agency that prints Canadian paper currency and stamps Canadian coins) has demanded from the City of Toronto $47,680 in royalties for use of the phrase 'one cent', and the image of the Canadian penny. $10,000 covers the use of the words 'one cent' in the campaign website address ( and email address ( An additional $10,000 is demanded for the use of these words in the campaign phone number (416-ONE-CENT). The remaining $27,680 covers the use of the image of the Canadian penny in printed materials such as pins and posters." Here's a National Post article on the brouhaha.
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Canadian Mint Claims Rights To Words "One Cent"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:05AM (#20909601)
    Oh shit...
    • You're fine. The copyright is for "one cent." Crap...
  • by edittard ( 805475 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:05AM (#20909603)
    Is that one cent, or point zero one of a cent?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Um, sir, can't you see they're the same thing? I see no problem there.
    • "One cent for every dollar of the purchase prize", in my book, is a 1% VAT. Am I right? Because a 1% tax on nearly every item sold is not "just one cent", it's a considerable new tax burden.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tridus ( 79566 )
        The tax in question (the GST) already exists as a 6% (formerly 7%) sales tax, all the money goes to the Federal Government.

        The goal of the campaign is to take 1/6th of the revenue from the tax and give it to Municipal governments. So they don't want a new tax, they want to shift what the existing tax pays for.
  • When will it end?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enoxice ( 993945 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:08AM (#20909631) Journal
    There are some days I have to double check myself and make sure I'm not reading the Onion by mistake. Those days seem to be becoming larger in number.
    • Just after this little dust up. Then all the copyright issues will have been straightened out, and we can live in non-infringing golden age!
    • If you laugh, it's not the Onion.
  • ummm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:10AM (#20909641)
    I thought the Romans had the cent long before Canada.
    • Re:ummm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:23AM (#20909753)
      > I thought the Romans had the cent long before Canada.

      ummmm, no. They had the denarius. That's why British LSd money referred to their _penny_ as 1d -- d for denarius.

      And a _penny_ was not the same thing as a _cent_. There were 240 "old" pence in the pound.

      Those of us on {Dollars|Euros|Pesos|Rands|etc.}, and Cent(avo)s are using new fangled decimal money that came much later on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DarthVain ( 724186 )
        I think what they are referring to is that the Cent (I am guessing here) is probably based upon the Latin form for Centurion or Centurio (or however it is spelled), of which in a Roman Legion I believe had authority over about 100 soldiers, hence 100 Cents in a dollar or some such. Just as a Decurion (again not going to bother looking up real spelling), had authority over a squad of 10 (within the 100, etc..). While the Romans had military names for such things, Cent was probably just taken from the Latin f
        • Re:ummm (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Seraphim1982 ( 813899 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:38AM (#20911343)
          Fun fact of the day:

          A Roman Centurion who commanded a normal full-strength centuria generally had about 80 soldiers, not 100 as the name would suggest. The missing 20 men were non-combat servants or people with special skills.
          • I think I did say "about" as I know this wasn't an exact number.... Also through the history of the Roman Empire, they changed the numbers around some, so the Legion which usually had about 5,500 (I think) men, would sometimes be smaller or larger due to configuration of the time. Also the numbers usually didn't include the legates or the political officers (forget the name for em'). They also had skirmishers and varying amounts of light horse (depending on period), and any irregulars (allies, etc..).

            My fav
        • From the Dictionary widget on my MacBook...

          cent: ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [a hundred]):from French cent , Italian cento , or Latin centum 'hundred.'

      • I had always thought that 1d refered to its weight, 1 dram. Hence the term "penny dram" I could be wrong though, it's just what I had rattling around my head. I note that Wikipedia agrees with your good self on this matter however.
    • Re:ummm (Score:4, Informative)

      by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:22AM (#20910405) Journal
      No, but (odd bit of trivia), they did have the census, which measured someone's total wealth, and eventually morphed into Zins in German, their word for (bank) interest.
    • by neoform ( 551705 )
      They forgot to copyright the name I guess.
  • by jcc ( 55702 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:10AM (#20909643)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:11AM (#20909653)
    ..only in America.
  • Simple to fix... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by renesch ( 1016465 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:13AM (#20909661)
    ... change the tax to 'two cents', and forward all complaints to the 'Royal Canadian Mint'
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DeepHurtn! ( 773713 )
      No, you misunderstand. The tax is already at 6%. The cities have long complained that they do not receive enough support from the federal government for infrastructure costs, so this publicity campaign is trying to put pressure on the federal gov't to dedicate part of the GST (1/6th of it) directly to the cities. Right now Ottawa gives money to the municipalities mostly on an ad hoc basis, whereas a cut of the GST would give cities a steady and dependable stream of income that would make it easier to inv
  • by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:15AM (#20909683)
    .... Toronto should pay. .... In cash. .... In pennies.
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:21AM (#20909721) Journal

      This is the mint, they deal with TONS of cents EACH AND EVERY DAY, you think 4.768.000 coins is going to scare them? They got machines for that. Oh and processing fees.

      If you have any kind of a decent bank, they just take your old jar of coins, empty it in a machine and a little later they got a nice total and the money sorted. if your bank charges you for this, you know you got a bad bank. Granted, it is getting harder to find a good bank, in my youth banks went out of their way to advertise bank accounts to small kids, allowing them to save coins and then deposit them in a savings account. Their way of getting future business I guess. Today if you show up with a ton of cash to put into their accounts so they can make amazing profits on it, they charge you a deposit fee. Ah progress.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by aix tom ( 902140 )

        I think 21.646 tons of cash would scare them if they get it on one load at the same time.

        That's would be about 542 trucks if you use 40 tonners. The traffic jam alone would be impressive. ;-)

      • in my youth banks went out of their way to advertise bank accounts to small kids

        It worked for me. I've with the same bank from 14 to now. Through three mergers that changed the name of the bank even. I was actually told that I had had a slightly illegal account when I went in to adjust things - my parents should of been on the account.

        Of course, I've heard horror stories about my bank, but I've never experienced them - and given that you can find horror stories about almost every business, much less any
      • For six years I lived at an apartment and never spent my pennies. Every time I came home I threw my change on a dresser or something. The silver would sometimes get picked up again, but not the pennies.

        When I moved I lugged over $100 worth of pennies to Bank of Montreal. The guy I dealt with was more amused than upset. But I suspect his jokes were a way of covering his slight irritation. It took about a half hour to process.

        Just thought I'd share.
      • "they charge you a deposit fee"

        Two words, "credit union". The fees with credit unions is a tiny fraction of what regular banks stick you with.
      • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @10:47AM (#20911457) Journal

        You can't just pay in pennies.

        Amounts that are considered legal tender in Canada (which means they can't be refused):

        1. up to 25 pennies
        2. 1 dollar in nickels
        3. to dollars in dimes
        4. 40 quarters
        5. 20 dollars in loonies ($1 coin)
        6. 40 dollars in toonies *$2 coin)

        So no, they're not obligated to take a ton of pennies.

    • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:22AM (#20909739)
      That makes a lot of cents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Nope. You can't use more than 26 pennies in a single purchase. It's the LAW here.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jeffasselin ( 566598 )
        Well, you can try, but no agency or store is forced to accept.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        Close. If the seller will accept it you can pay with whatever you want. But the seller can refuse more than 26 pennies if they like. It's not illegal to show up with more though, you just take your chance of being refused service.
      • Is this a purchase though?
      • Perhaps they can make micropayments of approximately $0.26
  • by noz ( 253073 )
    Will they sue 50 Cent fitty times?
  • "One Cent" (Score:4, Informative)

    by kaszeta ( 322161 ) <> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:24AM (#20909765) Homepage
    I'm a little surprised that they assert that "one cent" is their phrase, since, unlike US coinage, they actually use numeric denominations on their coins. The Canadian penny actually says "1 cent" on it.

    Maybe the US Mint should insist they get paid instead...

    Oh, and the Royal Canadian Mint isn't a "Federal Agency". It's a Crown Corporation (status similar to the US Post Office).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jdgeorge ( 18767 )
      True enough. USA pennies have used the phrase "ONE CENT" for more than one hundred years. If Canada's mint wants to claim "ONE CENT" as their trademark, they'll have to duke it out at the highest court in the land [].

      Take that, strong Canadian dollar!
  • by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:25AM (#20909767) Homepage Journal
    This fits well into other cases, where one has attempted to trademark common vocabulary:
    • "You have mail" AOL
    • "Hall of Fame" National Baseball Hall of Fame
    • "Entrepreneur" Entreprenour Media
    • "Windows" Microsoft (ruled generic 1993)
    • "Memory game" Ravensburger (a website I maintain was involved in that once)
    Tradmarking common vocabulary is as questionable as patenting common tasks. The problem is that it is often cheaper to pay off than go through a legal fight. And that encourages the litigators. The good thing is that such battles usually are PR desasters for the companies involved.
    • by simong ( 32944 )
      In the UK, Barclays Bank have trademarked the phrase 'hole in the wall' for their ATMs. I'm sure there must be prior art and that they didn't invent the term, but no-one seems to have complained yet.
      • by mpe ( 36238 )
        In the UK, Barclays Bank have trademarked the phrase 'hole in the wall' for their ATMs. I'm sure there must be prior art and that they didn't invent the term, but no-one seems to have complained yet.

        But they didn't get a trademark on "Cash Machine", "Money Dispenser", "Bank Machine" or even the American "ATM". The phrase they trademarked is something other than a plain langauge description of their business, goods, services, etc.
        Note that a piece of common vocabulary used outside of it's normal context ca
  • The penny has no redeeming value in the current economy.
  • by TomTraynor ( 82129 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:27AM (#20909799) Homepage
    It is not the phrase, it is the image of the penny itself. To quote the first sentence

    Demands from the Royal Canadian Mint that the city of Toronto pay for using pictures of a penny in its "One Cent" campaign
    It is only fair, if someone uses an image that you created wouldn't you want to control how it is used and get compensated for the use of your image?
  • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:28AM (#20909807) Journal
    Take that you smug little bastards! You sit up there all pointing and laughing at how insane the IP system has gotten in the US... HAH! Welcome to the new world, not so smug now eh? One Cent...holy crap... And its not even some profit mongering megacorp up there, its your freakin federal agency suing the city. On top of that the irony involved in the fact that the whole thing is about trying to get 'one cent' out of the tax, and the government response is to charge them for asking for it! Aaaahahahahahaa. Now maybe you won't be so damned smug when stupid shit happens here down south of you.
  • by PontifexPrimus ( 576159 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @08:35AM (#20909869)
    "A penny for your thoughts", quite literally. What's with this obsession with "intellectual property"? I have thought of many, many things. I have used these thoughts to create physical objects from raw maerials, to compose texts, to extend these notions and to combine them, to create new, previously un-thought thoughts. And it never occurred to me that I should pay the people that inspired those mental processes, nor did it occur to me to ask for remuneration for those thoughts I in turn shared with my environment. How can anyone claim ownership of a phrase, a collection of words, a simple idea like this and ask for rent?
    This is getting more and more absurd. If you can let people get away with the claim that they "own" the words "one cent", where can we expect them to stop? Is there any reason they could not claim that the word "one", as an essential part of that phrase, is also their property? I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, I'd really like to hear an argument that could apply to "one cent" but not to "one".
    • I believe it's safe to assume that at least part of this story couldn't have happened here in the U.S. The design of pennies is a work of the Federal Government, and as such is not eligible for copyright. However, see this section from the U.S. Mint website: []

      Designs of the new quarter-dollar coins issued under the 50 State Quarters Program may be derivative works of designs covered by third-party copyrights licensed to or assigned to the U.S. Mint, or in some cases may be covered by third-party copyrights

    • I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, I'd really like to hear an argument that could apply to "one cent" but not to "one".
      The guys claiming the rights to "one cent" have a lot of money, and a lot of lawyers.
    • Well, I would say that in the right context the word 'One' could be included in the catch-all intellectual property phrase. There is a phone company here in Australia called 'Three'. Their logo is the numeral 3. I don't doubt they would try to protect that brand through courts if somebody used 'Three' in a context that would conflict with their brand. This is all to blame on the fact that phrases are like memes from the ether, or in other words language is like a virus from outer space. Therefore this 'inte
      • by mpe ( 36238 )
        There is a phone company here in Australia called 'Three'. Their logo is the numeral 3.

        Typically logos are quite specific pieces of artwork. If they include text the font, font colour, relative size of the text, is part of the definition.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      What's with this obsession with "intellectual property"?

      Usually when it comes down to it this is the new feudalism - except those using it as a weapon can neither weild it themselves like the barbarians of old or do productive stuff like the farmers and craftsfolk of old. That these people come accross as complete parasites is no accident - don't blame the lawyers blame the clueless fools employing them that got to head up a company because daddy had money.

  • So governments can claim copyrights, trademarks, and get patents? I thought the point of these was for commercial enterprises in the market, which the government is not in (since it can grant itself a monopoly on anything it wants). What's their justification, that without the protection of copyright they wouldn't be able to make a they already get taxes by law. They wouldn't be able to finance projects like coining (ha) the phrase "one cent"? I just don't get it.
    • by topham ( 32406 )
      Canadian copyright flows from the monarchy, to the government and then to us peons.
  • RCM != Paper Money (Score:5, Informative)

    by alexburke ( 119254 ) <`ac.ekrubxela' `ta' `todhsals+xela'> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:06AM (#20910195)

    the Royal Canadian Mint (the federal agency that prints Canadian paper currency and stamps Canadian coins)

    Nope. The Royal Canadian Mint [] stamps coins only. The Bank of Canada [] is responsible for paper money, the actual printing of which is performed by Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited and BA International Inc (formerly British American Banknote).
  • by farker haiku ( 883529 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:07AM (#20910201) Journal
    Thanks Bullwinkle, a ruble for your troubles!

    No! Not one red cent!
  • Seriously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mdigiac1 ( 1169929 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @09:13AM (#20910293)
    I am embarrassed to be Canadian. Clearly this is the first of many stupid things to happen. Next Up: Canadian Election. Do I vote for tweedle Dee or tweedle Dumb.
  • This "one cent" thing is a joke, right?

    At least this is a funny joke, as opposed to the not funny joke that is the president of the US.

    • At least this is a funny joke, as opposed to the not funny joke that is the president of the US.
      Not to troll or flame or anything, but the anti-GW crowd doesn't even seem to be trying now. As much as I realize the man is stupid, that joke was just pitiful.
  • The term One Cent has been used in common english for over a hundred years, as America uses the term on their one cent pieces [] the image of the Canadian cent design is probably enforceable, but the name 'one cent' is going to far.
  • I have dibs on "two cents". Now pay up Canada.
  • $47,680 Canadian = $50,000 US.
  • "Dollar"?

    Stephen Cobert had a humorous bit about the U.S. charging Canada for trademark infringements for the use of the word "Dollar". Of course, he requested that the payment be made to the U.S. in Canadian dollars....

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.