With trade being more globalised today, it's important that you are aware that your company is at risk of having its trademark infringed by foreign companies. It's a more subtle risk to detect, as the recent lawsuit between Playgo and Playgro shows.
Trade mark clashes
Be on the lookout for foreign companies infringing on your trade mark.
The lawsuit was between Australia's Playgro and Hong Kong's Playgro. Playgro Pty Ltd (Playgro Australia) had registered its trademark in Australia as a word mark and logo for children's games and play things. Playgo Art & Craft Manufactory Limited and Playgo Toys Enterprises Limited (Playgo Hong Kong) are Hong Kong companies that manufacture, design and sell toys.
It is when Playgo began to sell in Australia that things became problematic.The Federal Court ruled that the names of Playgro and Playgo were too similar. So, it was words alone that made it a trade mark infringement. However, IP Australia states that a trade mark is not just a logo, but also words, letters, numbers, phrases, sound, shape, picture, smell, packaging, movement and any combination of these factors.
This case shows the pertinent need for companies to be on the lookout for foreign companies importing into Australia that could infringe on any of these aspects of their trade mark.
How to keep a lookout for overseas importers infringing on your rights?
IP Australia likewise emphasised how it's more important for companies to make sure that their trade mark rights are not being infringed with the increasing rate of global commerce.
Even if the foreign business is protected in its country, that doesn't mean it is in Australia. Of course, Hong Kong's Playgo had registered its trademark in the country of its operational headquarters, just as Playgro had in Australia.
According to The Australian, trade mark expert Ben Hamilton said this case will be significant for identifying future trade mark infringement. This is because the company selling the goods was not the one taken to court. Instead, the target of litigation was the manufacturer, which did not even have an operation in Australia. But the manufacturer was the subject of litigation because it knew that the products would eventually be sold in Australia.
There are a number of options for enforcing trade mark rights if you believe they're being infringed upon, including notices of objection and civil court action. Before going to court, consult with an Australian trade mark lawyer to see if your trademark has been infringed. To play it even more safe, it would be worthwhile to consult with a lawyer as a preventative measure.
To identify a foreign manufacturer as an infringer, even more in-depth detection methods are required. IP Australia recommends frequently inspecting competitors for any possible infringement. Alder IP has trade mark lawyers with excellent advice on both responding to infringements and preventing future legal problems. Be prepared for trade mark infringement cases and protect your brand in an increasingly globalised business world.