Chris Bennett is a partner with the law firm of Davis LLP located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As the head of the firm’s Trademarks Law Group and a member of its Intellectual Property, Technology and Outsourcing groups, Chris regularly provides pro bono intellectual property services to a number of organizations. These include Cures for Kids
, Education Beyond Borders
, Earth Day Network
, My Painted House Foundation
and Soroptomists of the Langleys
. Chris provides not only trademark clearance, prosecution and management services but also pro bono dispute resolution assistance to charitable organizations that have been accused of violating others’ trademark rights or have had their own trademarks infringed.
Chris’s pro bono services reach out to many clients. One of his favorite pro bono clients is the Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS) for whom he has provided pro bono trademark prosecution, sponsorship and licensing assistance. Some years ago, Chris was asked by a partner at Davis LLP to provide HEROS with some basic trademark advice. However, according to Norm Flynn, HEROS’ executive director and founder, Chris “has gone above and beyond what is expected of him, and he is an understated gentleman.”
Working with the National Hockey League, HEROS is committed to empowering children by building their self-esteem and providing life skills training through the game of hockey. The HEROS program focuses on boys and girls of diverse ethnicity from economically challenged neighborhoods; it gets at-risk children off the street and onto the ice in a hockey rink. Besides learning hockey skills and burning off energy, children get to work with positive role models and mentors on a weekly basis.
HEROS volunteers give girls and boys a sense of belonging; such types of positive connections with caring adults have been shown to be the number-one indicator of success in adolescents. The program supports between 460 and 500 children each year. In addition, HEROS offers scholarships, private tutors, job placement services, a drug awareness program and a dress-for-success program. More information about HEROS can be found on their website, www.heroshockey.com.
Norm believes Chris “fell out of a wonderful blue sky.” In conjunction with providing HEROS with pro bono legal services, Chris teams up with the lawyers and staff at Davis to organize holiday parties for the children in the HEROS program. Each year Davis LLP makes a monetary donation to ensure that the party happens, and many of the attorneys and staff purchase and wrap gifts and provide hot meals to the HEROS children. Chris knows that for many of these boys and girls, the present they receive at the party will be the only one they get at the holidays.
Recently, Chris started a give-back program with HEROS whereby the firm gives each child in the program a gift certificate for use at a local sporting goods store. HEROS asks the children to consider using some of their money to purchase a gift for someone else who is in need. According to Chris, the program is successful because almost all of the boys and girls choose to purchase gifts for others. Under the give-back program, each child is also asked, after purchasing a gift for someone else, to write Norm a letter about the gift purchased, who it was purchased for, and how it made the child who bought the gift feel. To Norm’s surprise, 60 percent of the boys and girls who participated wrote him such a letter.
Chris’s firm has a long history of providing pro bono services. In 2010, Lexpert Zenith, an organization that honors those lawyers and firms that make outstanding contributions through pro bono efforts, awarded Davis LLP the prestigious Lexpert Zenith Platinum Award for the pro bono work it provided to a group of women ski jumpers who wanted to participate in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The Winter Olympics has six different ski-related events, but only men have been allowed to participate in ski jumping. Since 1998, female ski jumpers have petitioned the International Olympic Committee to add women’s ski jumping to the Olympic agenda, but each time the committee has denied their request.
In 2010, a team of Davis lawyers took on the International Olympic Committee with the hope of making 2010 the first year the world would see women’s ski jumping in the Olympics. The Davis team filed a suit with the British Columbia Supreme Court, claiming that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games had violated women ski jumpers’ rights to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The firm represented the ski team on a pro bono basis and spent thousands of hours preparing for and arguing the case.
Unfortunately, the court ruled that it did not have the legal authority to force the International Olympic Committee to allow women to participate; thus, the ski jump team did not get to participate in the 2010 Olympics. The firm appealed the case to the highest court in British Columbia, but the appeal was dismissed. However, the court did find that the women ski jumpers were being discriminated against. This was a huge win for women athletes! Based on the court’s decision, for the first time ever, women’s boxing was included in the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee has announced that it will include a ski-jumping event for women in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
If you ever have the good fortune to work with Chris, you should bring your running sneakers—not a suit—to your meeting, as Chris is an avid triathlete and has been known to talk clients into meeting over a run rather than a meal. He is “the kind of person who is always there when you need him, and a solid, reliable guy,” boasts Norm.
Author: Alaine Doolan
, Robinson & Cole LLP, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Pro Bono Committee