Exclusive: City of Surrey furious over parody T-shirts

Surrey city hall has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a website selling hoodies and T-shirts that draw attention to the city's crime problem, Business in ...

Surrey city hall has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a website selling hoodies and T-shirts that draw attention to the city's crime problem, Business in Vancouver has learned.

SurreyShirts.com is flogging black shirts and sweatshirts with silver print parodying the municipal logo and "The Future Lives Here" slogan. The website's owner Don Pitcairn said he received a January 31 cease-and-desist letter via email from assistant city solicitor Philip Huynh, although the letter was sent for the attention of Jason Arsenault of SurreyClothing.com, a different website that has also produced parody-logo clothing.

Huynh wanted the production of the T-shirts halted and for the products to be destroyed because he said they infringe upon the city's trademark.

Surrey filed for the federal trademark of its green, white, grey and silver logo and the "Future Lives Here" slogan in March 2008.

Surrey is B.C.'s second-largest city and remade its image to spur economic development and overcome decades of derision.

However, the Canada Copyright Act was amended June 29, 2012, to say: "Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright."

One of the shirts reads "better safe than Surrey" with images of six bullet holes. Another is a hooded sweatshirt with a twist on the logo and slogan, showing a handgun where the buildings should be and the slogan "The Future Dies Here."

Pitcairn said the "better safe than Surrey" parody slogan has been around for a long time.

"Like: 'Living in White Rock means never having to say you're Surrey.' That's how a lot of people feel about this town when you're getting five murders in a month," he said, referring to the number of gang-related shootings during January 2013.

Pitcairn said the six bullet holes on the T-shirt are symbolic of the so-called "Surrey Six" massacre – the October 2007 gangland slaying in which two innocent bystanders, Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg, were murdered in a Surrey apartment building.

"Surrey's a big city and these are big city problems," Pitcairn said. "At some point we need to address the drug issue, the gang issue, and more than anything the handgun issue, the illegal handguns coming up from the (States)."

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts was unavailable for immediate comment because of illness, according to her assistant Tara Foslien.

Surrey city solicitor Craig MacFarlane said city hall has never had to sue a trademark offender.

“It's just the logo we're concerned with,” MacFarlane told BIV. “He can say whatever he likes within the bounds of the constitution. Usually a warning is enough in these cases. We might not want to dispute this further, I have no instructions to take this further. We sent out the letter and hopefully we get voluntary compliance.”

BMackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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