AUSTRALIAN RUGBY LEAGUE COMMISSION LIMITED OF RUGBY LEAGUE V JANE REID [2014] ATMO 108

Jane Reid applied to register a number of trade marks, each for THE MIGHTY MAROONS, covering a large range of goods across Classes 9, 16, 18, 21, 24, 25 and 28. The Australian Rugby League opposed the applications.

In its evidence, the Australian Rugby League submitted examples of the use of the term MAROONS in relation to the State of Origin team from Queensland. It was able to adduce significant evidence of the likely reputation of the term ‘MAROONS’ in relation to that sport.

The applicant countered with its own evidence detailing a large number of sporting teams and organisations that use the term ‘MAROONS’ to refer to themselves.

The Hearing Officer noted that there was no case under section 60, as there was no evidence that the term ‘MAROONS’ had been used by the Australian Rugby League ‘as a trade mark’. Rather, the Hearing Officer considered that the use of the term ‘MAROONS’ was by third parties and the media. The term was not, therefore, acting as a badge of origin for the State of Origin team.

However, the Hearing Officer viewed the Australian Rugby League’s case under section 42(b) more favourably in respect of sections 18 and 29 of the Australian Consumer Law.

These sections provide for the protection of consumers against misleading or deceptive conduct and false or misleading representations about goods or services.

As part of the applicant’s evidence, were the use of disclaimers on its goods to the effect that ‘The Mighty Maroons Pty Ltd has no association with any sporting body’. The Hearing Officer noted the use of the disclaimer as confirmation of ‘the Applicant’s apprehension of the likelihood for a purchaser to be misled or deceived’. Further, the Hearing Officer noted that should registrations be granted, there would be no obligation on the applicant to continue to use such disclaimers on its goods.

Based on the marketing and merchandise revenue demonstrated by the opponent in its evidence, the Hearing Officer formed the view that members of the public are aware of the use of MAROONS by the Australian Rugby League and that the use of the applicant’s trade mark THE MIGHTY MAROONS is likely to mislead or deceive.

The applications were refused registration.

To view the Office decision, click here.