Toronto must pay for tax campaign

The City of Toronto, Ontario, hoping to raise taxes by imposing a new one cent tax on municipal services, has so far generated a cost to the city of nearly $50,000.

In an effort to bolster enthusiasm for the tax increase last fall, city officials launched a city-wide campaign, complete with posters, bumper stickers, buttons, and a catchy slogan: "One Cent of the G.S.T. NOW." Promotional items showed an image of the Canadian penny. The promotion included a dedicated telephone number (416-ONE-CENT) and Web site (www.OneCentNow.ca).

Not long after the campaign began, the city received an invoice from Canada's federal mint, charging the city $47,680 (nearly $49,000 U.S.) for the right to use the penny image, a copyrighted image, and phrase, "OneCent." Toronto had failed to request permission to use these items in its campaign.

The intellectual property office of the Royal Canadian Mint admits it does not have a trademark on the phrase, "One Cent," but acknowledges that it owns the rights to the penny image.

Alexandre Reeves, a spokesman for the Canadian mint, said that the words "one cent" appear in the mint's payment request because they were among the factors used in calculating the media value of Toronto's campaign. The city created the campaign with its own employees and did not use paid advertising.

According to a report in The New York Times, Reeves said the invoice was based on an estimate of what the campaign might have cost if the city had used an advertising agency and paid to spread its word. "We have to protect our property from abuse," Reeves said.

Toronto has not yet paid the bill.

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