Montreal Investment Fund is sued over the use of its founder’s great-grandfather’s name


Montreal-Brendan Holt Dan wants to evoke the legacy of his great-grandfather and Quebec’s pioneering businessman Sir Herbert Holt in the name of a Montreal-based venture capital fund. Said.

Now he may have to go to court to keep his name.

His fund, The Holt Xchange, has invested in early-stage financial technology start-ups and has been sued by international bank Credit Suisse for trademark violations.

Credit Suisse’s subsidiary CSFB HOLT owns the right to use the brand “HOLT” in providing financial products and services in Canada in a statement of allegations filed in federal court in Edmonton last year. Said that it is branding and offering Montreal venture capital. The fund (known as the Holt Accelerator when the proceedings were filed) is too similar.

Banks seeking damages of at least $ 100,000 claim that similarities “cause confusion among Canadian consumers” and reduce the value and reputation of the trademark.

Dan said he believes there is no risk of confusion.

“We belong to different disciplines and the financial sector as a whole is very broad,” he said, adding that he had never heard of Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand before being sued.

“I think they’re worried that our name, the name of our family, is better known than they are in Canada,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “There is no duplication.”

Elisabeth Laett, managing partner of The HoltXchange, said the decision to use Holt’s name when the fund was launched in 2018 was to make Montreal’s financial sector history and Quebec a new generation hub. Said it was a reference to the fund’s ambitions. Financial technology company.

“We were, at one point, the Canadian financial hub of Montreal,” she said.

When Herbertholt died in 1941, he was said to be Canada’s wealthiest man. A railroad engineer who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway, he became a knight in the task of planning a railroad in France during World War I. He was then expropriated to consolidate several utilities in the Montreal region and eventually establish Hydro-Qu├ębec, where he was president of the Royal Bank of Canada from 1908 to 1934.

Holt was also a controversial figure in Montreal when many French-speaking Quebecs resented Montreal’s English-speaking business elite.

In a court filing, Holt Exchange claims that Holt’s name has been used by families for generations in providing financial products and services in Canada. He also filed a counterclaim seeking the removal of Credit Suisse’s HOLT trademark.

Credit Suisse’s HOLT brand is an acronym based on the surname of the founder of the consulting firm, derived from the name of a US-based financial consulting firm acquired by a bank in 2002. Banks that applied for registration of the “HOLT” trademark in Canada in 2006 sell software used to evaluate companies and offer consulting services and investment products under the name HOLT.

Whether consumers interpret “holt” in the name of a venture capital fund in Montreal as a reference to the Holt family is one of the issues at stake in court filing.

Teresa Sukassa, chairman of the Canadian Research Committee on Information Law and Policy at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, said the court would consider several factors in assessing the potential for confusion in trademark cases. Similar goods and services Goods and services, and how they are sold or sold. “

Trademark law allows people to use their name as a trade name, but she said defense is “quite narrowly interpreted.”

“For example, if a person named McDonald’s is prevented from using his name in business, or if he opens a hamburger stand, he is prevented from using his name to sell hamburgers in a family business. No, but you can’t just call it McDonald’s, “she said. Instead, they need to clarify that it is another business.

Credit Suisse spokesman Jonathan Schwarzberg declined to comment on the case, saying banks couldn’t say anything publicly beyond the proceedings. No trial date has been set.

Dan said the fund began negotiations with Credit Suisse after the proceedings were filed and changed its name from Holt Fintech Accelerator to Holt Exchange in the spring.

He said there are other companies using the name Holt.

“I don’t understand that,” he said. “It’s insulting and we clearly feel bullied. We are a very successful family, but no family in the world can stand up to financial institutions.”

Laett said the Montreal Foundation has built an international brand based on its name and is attracting attention from start-ups around the world. “There were about 3,000 applications as part of Holt,” she said. “There is tremendous momentum.”

Dan said he wasn’t open to removing “holt” from the company name.

“It’s my personal name, my family’s name, and the history and reputation of our family in Canada,” he said.

Jacob Celebrin