OCAP™ is now OCAP®: Understanding the new trademark status

The First Nations principles of OCAP® are a set of standards that establish important ground rules about how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used, or shared. Since they were established nearly 20 years ago, the OCAP® principles have become synonymous with the highest standards of research ethics and data privacy in First Nations communities.

Standing for ownership, control, access and possession, OCAP® asserts that First Nations have control over data collection processes in their communities and that they own and control how this information will be used.

 In 2011, FNIGC’s Board of Directors approved a multi-year plan designed to protect and ensure the integrity of OCAP® after it was discovered that researchers, academics, and others were misrepresenting and distorting its original intent.  

The first step in this four-year plan began when FNIGC filed trademark applications for the OCAP® and PCAP® (the French equivalent of OCAP®) logos with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

This approach was modelled on a path laid out by other well-known “conceptual trademarks” such as the Certified Organic, Fair Trade, LEEDS, and ISO brands. 

Once CIPO granted the logos registered trademark status in August 2014, FNIGC filed trademark applications for the “OCAP" and “PCAP” acronyms themselves. These were approved in August 2015, marking the end of the trademark process.

Securing trademarks for the OCAP® name and logo was a lengthy, but essential, process that will act as a valuable sword to defend the standards and values of OCAP®, and serve as an educational tool both within, and outside of, First Nations communities. 

What does this mean for you?

Practically speaking, OCAP® as a concept remains the same as ever. The new registered trademarks do not affect its core guiding principles in any way, or the manner in which they are applied in First Nations communities.

However, it does affect the way you use and implement the OCAP® brand (as represented by the acronyms and logos). Going forward, you should replace any “TM” symbol previously associated with the OCAP/PCAP acronym or logo with the  symbol.

This will communicate to the general public that these are now registered trademarks (which the  symbol represents) that should not be misused or misrepresented. (The “TM” symbol on the other hand, represents unregistered – or pending -- trademarks).

As always, if you wish to use the OCAP® name or logo you must include a citation that states that: "OCAP® is a registered trademark of the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC)" and include a reference to our website (www.FNIGC.ca) so that the definition of OCAP® can be properly understood by the reader.

What does registered trademark mean for FNIGC?

With official registered trademark status now in hand, FNIGC has exclusive rights to the OCAP®/PCAP name and logos and will act as its guardian on behalf of all First Nations people.

Moving forward it will be FNIGC’s duty to monitor and safeguard the integrity of the OCAP®/PCAP® brand on behalf of all First Nations people, and take appropriate legal action to curtail any unauthorized use of them within Canada.

What’s next for OCAP®?

The next step for FNIGC is the development of an OCAP® Certification Process. When it is completed this process will allow researchers, academics, government departments, First Nation communities and others to submit projects to FNIGC and our Regional Partners in order to be assessed to see if they are OCAP®-compliant.

As part of this process, FNIGC has filed a trademark application with CIPO for a new “OCAP®-Certified” logo which will be given to all projects that meet our OCAP®-standard.

It’s worth noting that until this process is complete, simply attaching the OCAP® name or logo to your project does not mean that you are in compliance with OCAP®.

If you have any more questions about the First Nations principles of OCAP please go to the dedicated OCAP section of FNIGC's website