February 15, 2019
By François Larose and Alain Alphonse
When it comes to protecting an invention, it is better to turn to a registered patent agent who is well versed in the relevant laws governing patents and has relevant experience, and not to a consulting company with no registered patent agents that claims to offer the same services at a lower cost, and is eventually accused of fraud for lack of adequate services.
This is what we can conclude from a class action application authorized by the Superior Court of Quebec in Bérubé c. Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, 2018 QCCS 3459 (CanLII). In this case, the plaintiff, Benjamin Bérubé, sought to bring a class action against the Fédération des inventeurs du Québec (FIQ) and Mr. Christian William Varin, the founder, president and sole director of the FIQ. The FIQ appears to be an organization that provides patent consulting and management services to inventors, including prior art searches and filing of provisional patent applications in the United States.
Mr. Bérubé alleges that he retained the FIQ in 2015 to carry out prior art searches and to help him obtain a provisional patent application in the United States. To this end, he claims to have paid more than $3,000. He also had to become a member of the FIQ for an annual membership fee of $95. Mr. Bérubé, however, was dissatisfied with the nature and quality of the services rendered by the FIQ. According to him, the FIQ and Mr. Varin systematically deceived their clients by misrepresenting the nature of the organization, its resources, programs and services, as well as its partnerships with others organizations. For example, it falsely suggested being able to provide prior art search and provisional patent preparation services, that members of its team were experts in the field of intellectual property including patent prosecution and management, and that they would guide their clients throughout the process, when in fact the FIQ's work was incomplete, the follow-ups were inadequate, and the provisional patent applications were deficient.
In his application to the Court, Mr. Bérubé sought a class action for the benefit of all natural and legal persons who had used the services of the FIQ starting October 1, 2014.
After analyzing the requirements set out in Article 575 of the Québec Code of Civil Procedure, the Court authorized the class action against the FIQ and Mr. Varin, finding, in particular, that the alleged facts seemed to justify the conclusions sought. The Court determined that the conclusions sought by the class action include a payment of $2,000 to each of the class members for damages, pain and suffering, a payment to each member equivalent to what he or she paid for deficient or incomplete services rendered by the defendants, and a payment to each member equivalent to what he or she paid to correct the actions taken by the defendants regarding her respective inventions. A brief search reveals that the FIQ has been targeted by a dozen other lawsuits and several complaints before the Office of Consumer Protection of Québec.
On January 31st 2019, the Court ordered, among other things, the defendants to provide within 30 days the names and contact information of clients who would form the class members. The class action is therefore following its course.
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