On February 6, 2009, the Canadian Trade-marks Opposition Board issued a Practice Notice with new rules for opposition proceedings, which take effect on March 31, 2009.

The most significant change introduced by the new Practice Notice is a "cooling-off" period with the purported intent of encouraging settlement and mediation. An opponent will now be able to request an extension of time of up to nine (9) months, on consent, either prior to filing its statement of opposition or prior to filing its evidence. The applicant will also have the ability to request an extension of time of up to nine (9) months, on consent, either prior to filing its counter statement or prior to filing its evidence. The end result is a potential “cooling-off” period of a maximum of 18 months.

The Practice Notice also includes a tightening of the rules for other extensions of time and specifically lists the exceptional circumstances under which they will be granted. New constraints regarding the scheduling of hearings have likewise been added.

The main impact of the new Practice Notice is that parties now have the potential for longer periods of time to explore settlement without the need to file multiple requests for extensions of time. However, should settlement not be reached within the “coolingoff” period, parties to opposition proceedings will now have even tighter (and nonextendable) timelines to comply with. As such, should the opposition reach the evidence stage, it will be very important to begin to compile the necessary supporting materials as early as possible.