After trademarking the phrase “Welcome to Parry Sound,” Nick Slater, owner of an Internet service provider in the Ontario town, began invoicing local groups using the greeting on their websites, among them the Town of Parry Sound, the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame (which the town, the hockey great’s birthplace, owns), and the non-profit Parry Sound Snowmobile District. When the $1,000 invoices persisted, the recipients consulted a lawyer, who advised them not to pay. Undeterred, Slater brought a $23,000 small-claims suit against the snowmobile club and threatened the town with the same.
The gambit has angered many locals. Some have posted crude signs with the greeting on their lawns. Dan Payerl, a real estate broker, hoisted his (“Working for you from sign up until sign down”) in front of his business, kitty-corner from Slater’s. “There are certain social rules in small towns,” he explains. Randy Higgins, a retired corrections officer, launched “Welcome to Parry Sound” as an anti-Slater Facebook group, and watched it surge to 2,400 members. Slater countered by sending Higgins a $1,050 invoice—a $1,000 trademark fee, $50 GST—and then filed a trademark complaint with Facebook that prompted the site to close the page.
Despite that victory, trademark experts say Slater, who describes himself as “over 50,” has little chance of success (his complaints are directed at instances of the phrase as a greeting, not a trademark). Even Nick’s father Ronald seems unsure of the wisdom of his approach, and recommended in a letter to the local paper addressed to Nick that he “explain your various positions.” “My friends say he’s an engineer, not a diplomat,” says Ronald. “But I do trust my son.”