R c Varin [i]
On September 21, 2022 the Court of Quebec sentenced Christian William Varin (“Varin”), the founder, president and sole director and employee of the Fédération des inventors du Québec (“FIQ”), to five years imprisonment on account of fraud.
Earlier this year, Varin was found guilty by the same court for defrauding hundreds of inventors by providing services based on false representations, including the promotion of a team that didn’t exist, and of professional services that he was not licensed to provide.
Fédération des Inventors du Québec (FIQ)
From its inception in 2014, FIQ was marketed as a not-for-profit organization led by a team of professionals offering services for the protection of inventions, including preparing provisional patent applications and completing prior art searches. FIQ’s services were appealing as they were offered at a fraction of the price charged by licensed patent agents. However, it was revealed that Varin did not have the knowledge or training to file patent applications, nor did he ever file a single patent application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for any of the clients FIQ retained.
Despite lawsuits[ii] and complaints before the Consumer Protection Office, FIQ remained under the radar for years, serving over 1,000 clients, many of whom were later identified as victims. Varin promised members who joined FIQ and paid an annual fee that the profits would be reinvested in a new meeting place for customers, “the Pavillon des inventors du Québec,” a luxurious $1.3 million chalet in Shefford, Quebec. Instead, Varin was renting out the property at high costs on the Airbnb platform.
In 2018, the Superior Court of Quebec granted Benjamin Bérubé (“Bérubé”) the authorization to commence a class action against FIQ and Varin.[iii] Bérubé retained FIQ in 2015 to complete prior art searches and to assist him with the filing of a provisional patent application in the United States, and claimed that after paying over $3,000 the services were either not performed, or not performed properly, as he claimed he was never afforded any real protection for his invention. Bérubé alleged that FIQ was a fraudulent company, and the Superior Court of Quebec agreed that there was sufficient evidence to permit the certification of the class action.
In January of 2022 the Court of Quebec found Varin guilty of fraud, referring to him as an “imposter who exploits public credulity” and a “charlatan” of the 21st century.[iv]
Varin Preyed on Inventors
In the present proceeding, Justice Alexandre Dalmau of the Court of Quebec delivered Varin’s sentencing for the January 2022 conviction. Dalmau described FIQ as a scheme in which the online website was the bait and the inventors the prey.[v]
To arrive at an appropriate sentence, Dalmau considered the principles of sentencing as set out in section 718 of the Criminal Code, as well as aggravating factors and the impact of the fraud on victims. The Court of Quebec acknowledged that not only did Varin’s victims suffer from monetary losses, but also, “shattered dreams, loss of confidence…as well as psychological distress”.[vi] Though the prosecution had asked for a six-year prison sentence, Varin was ultimately sentenced to serve five, as he had demonstrated a willingness to use the proceeds of his crime to reimburse the victims. As part of the sentencing, Varin was also prohibited from seeking, accepting or maintaining employment or work where he could exercise power over property, money or values of others.[vii]
As a result of Varin’s crime, many of his victims lost the protection and exclusivity of their inventions, which for some would have amounted to substantially more than what they may have lost in fees paid. FIQ’s advertising strategy took advantage of the cost and complexity of patenting an invention and targeted inventors who were discouraged from undertaking the process on their own. Varin’s fraud highlights the importance of regulating our profession. Canadian patent agents are regulated by the College of Patent Agents & Trademark Agents/Collège des agents de brevets et des agents de marques de commerce (“CPATA/CABAMC”) whose role is to build confidence in accessible, ethical, and expert intellectual property services. CPATA/CABAMC maintains a public register of all licensed patent agents.
Please contact a professional at PCK Intellectual Property for more information on how to best protect your patent rights.
[i] 2022 QCCQ 6675 [Varin].
[ii] See e.g., Girard-Joncas c. Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, 2018 QCCQ 7708; Atmoshère Béton c. Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, 2018 QCCQ 4105; Sévigny c. Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, 2019 QCCQ 1925; Dufour c. Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, 2021 QCCS 956.
[iii] Bérubé c. Federation of Quebec Inventors, 2018 QCCS 3459.
[iv] R v Varin, 2022 QCCQ 442 at para 247.
[v] Varin, supra note 1 at para 4.
[vi] Ibid at para 76.
[vii] Ibid at para 80.
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