Health World v Shin Sun – round 563?

This round of the litigation raise the question ‘Who is a person aggrieved for the purposes of seeking revocation of a registered trade mark?’

Health World isn’t, at least when it comes to Shin Sun’s registration.

Health World uses and has registrations for INNER HEALTH PLUS in respect of probiotic capsules and has a registration for ‘Pharmaceutical preparations; dietetic substances adapted for medical use; products in this class sold by pharmacies and/or health food shops including vitamins, minerals, health foods, dietary foods, Chinese and ayurvedic herbs, and nutrition bars included in class 5’.

Shin Sun uses HealthPlus for products derived from bees, their wax and/or squalene (something to do with sharks) and its Australian trade mark registration is for ‘‘pharmaceutical products including vitamins and dietary supplements’ in class 5′. Shin Sun’s registration had 4 years’ priority over Health World’s.

Health World’s opposition to Shin Sun’s application having failed, it sought revocation on the basis of prior reputation (s 60 or via s 42(b)). This failed because, while anyone could oppose on the grounds of s 60 relying on anyone’s reputation, s 88 required an applicant for revocation to be an aggrieved person and this, in turn, required that the misleading and deceptive nature of the mark sought to be revoked must affect the application for revocation in a meaningful way – the legal or practical effect test from Ritz.

Health World failed this test because its established reputation was in a rather discrete field and there was no risk of overlap with Shin Sun’s own particular, narrow field.

Health World tried a number of arguments to avoid this conclusion, particularly based on the litigious history of the parties including Shin Sun’s own oppositions and other objections to Health World’s trade mark registration. These failed, largely because Shin Sun had withdrawn the objections by the time Health World launched its revocation proceeding or Shin Sun’s actions could be characterised as defensive manoeuvres in response to Health World’s attacks.

I’m not sure what the policy objective being served here is – as the Court notes, the requirement for standing is intended to keep out mere busybodies and officious bystanders. I guess, if there is no overlap in the respective parties’ business fields, the conclusion must follow.

As an aside, the Full Court appeared to endorse the trial judge’s finding that Shin Sun’s registration  was vulnerable on the grounds that it was confusing – because the goods Shin Sun’s trade mark was used on were not Shin Sun’s but some related entities (see [18]). I’m not at all clear why that’s the case, but it seems very bizarre that a ‘confusing’ trade mark can happily be left on the Register?

Health World Limited v Shin-Sun Australia Pty Ltd [2009] FCAFC 14 (Perram J with Emmett and Besanko JJ agreeing)