By TOM GODFREY
A Black community businessman is being challenged by organizers of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Parapan Games who want to take him to court over a possible copyright infringement stemming from a website.
Orrin Benn, of Toronto, has been operating the site PanAmericanWorld.com since last December. He claims the site is not affiliated with the Pan Am Games to take place in Toronto in July.
Benn has spent thousands of dollars to launch the site that employs six people in Canada and 12 freelancers in Latin America.
He said the site caters to members of the Caribbean and Latin American communities in Canada and offers news, arts and culture, food and some sports in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Benn, who is originally from Guyana, said traffic on the site is increasing and they now have 11,000 followers on Twitter.
He and his team have made several presentations to Pan Am officials in a partnership bid that has failed. The organizers were very interested in the project at first, he said.
That changed when his lawyer received a letter from Pan Am organizers last week challenging the trademark registration PanAmericanWorld.com, which they claim can confuse fans in search of the Games official website.
Pan Am officials have registered more than a dozen Games-related website domains, some in Spanish, in preparation for the event.
“They are trying to make it costly for us to operate,” Benn told Share. “Our site has been up and running for months.”
He said a lot of information about the site was shared with Pan Am organizers in previous meetings.
“They indicated they will use our services while stringing us out in making a decision,” a frustrated Benn said. “We now know that their intent was to challenge our trademark registration and have us engage in costly litigation.”
The site does not appear to be connected to the Games when viewed. It is bordered with green trim and features the flags from Latin American countries. It does not contain the name Pan Am Games, nor does it solely cover sports.
Benn is disappointed that public funds are being used to “drive him out of business”.
“They are using taxpayers’ money to knock us out of the picture,” he said. “They have a huge budget for lawyers and they know we do not.”
Benn suspects Pan Am organizers are targeting his freelancers on the ground.
“We think it’s because we have assembled a competent team of journalists who can report better than Pan Am can on the lead-up to the Games,” he said.
A Sept. 26 letter from law firm Steinberg, Morton, Hope and Israel LLP stated that Pan Am TO2015 opposed the registration of the PanAmericanWorld.com and design trademark in Canada.
Pan Am organizers said they would challenge the trademark in court but were willing to discuss a settlement if Benn would delete from his site the words “sports”, “events” and disclaim “PanAmerican”.
Benn says it will cost him more money for his lawyer to respond to the legal challenge.
Benn recently retired as president of the Canadian Aboriginal Minority Supply Council and has worked in the marketing industry for more than two decades with companies in Jamaica, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Cuba.
More than 10,000 athletes from 41 countries will be descending on Toronto from July 10 to 26 next year for the sporting event that is held every four years.
The Games, the costliest ever to stage, will cost the federal, provincial and municipal governments a staggering $2.5 billion.