WATCH: A pub in Calgary is entrenched in a legal battle with the University of Victoria. UVic owns Swans Hotel and Pub in Victoria. Luisa Alvarez tells us why and how business at the local watering hole in Alberta could be at risk.
Swans Hotel and Brewpub in Victoria has been around for 30 years. It was opened by owner Michael Williams in 1989. Fast forward five years and Swans of Inglewood in Calgary opened their doors.
“Mr. Williams knew that we were opening in Calgary and he didn’t seem to care,” said co-owner of Swans of Inglewood, Nadina Stainsby.
While Williams was alive Calgary’s Swans of Inglewood had been operating without issue but when he passed in 2000, his business was bequeathed to the University of Victoria. Last year they sent out a cease and desist letter for them to change their name.
“I don’t understand where this came from and I don’t understand what the net benefit is going to be. There is no mistake that we are in Calgary and Swans is in Victoria. People don’t sit here and wonder where the ocean is,” said Stainsby.
And Stainsby says the word Swans is iconic to British pubs.
“The very first pub on the entire planet had the word swans in the name it was called the two-necked swans and it was in the 1600s and in England the queen owns the name swans,” said Stainsby.
But here in Canada, the word Swans is trademarked. First provincially by Williams in 1991 and then by UVic federally in 2017.
According to a statement by the property manager, of Swans Hotel and Brewpub, trademark protection is standard in good business practices. They say they are obligated to protect it or essentially it becomes invalid.
“Swans also sells its own beer products under that brand. We believe there are enough similarities that people would be confused” the statement reads.
“It would be nice if they could just step back that’s what I think they should do,” said Stainsby while visibly frustrated.
She says they have already spent over 20,000 in legal fees fighting and they can’t afford to spend more.
“I can’t continue to litigate this because I would rather keep the door open. It feels like a David and Goliath story that is going the wrong way,” said Stainsby holding back tears.
UVic says all the Calgary pub has to do is drop the s., making it ‘The Swan of Inglewood.”
However, Stainsby says easier said than done. It’s another huge cost they can’t afford.