This third post looks at the Full Court’s rejection of Pham Global’s arguments that its use of its trade mark in NSW and Tasmania was not caught by s 60 because (Pham Global claimed) Insight Clinical did not have a reputation outside WA.

To recap, Pham Global was appealing Insight Clinical’s successful opposition to the registration of Pham Global’s mark (below on the right) on the basis of its own trade mark (below on the left) and the subsequent finding of infringement.[1]

As Insight Clinical had not registered its trade mark before Mr Pham had applied to register the Pham Global trade mark, one of its grounds of opposition was its reputation under s 60.

As you no doubt recall, s 60 now provides:

The registration of a trade mark in respect of particular goods or services may be opposed on the ground that:

(a) another trade mark had, before the priority date for the registration of the first?mentioned trade mark in respect of those goods or services, acquired a reputation in Australia; and

(b) because of the reputation of that other trade mark, the use of the first?mentioned trade mark would be likely to deceive or cause confusion.

It was not in dispute between the parties that Insight Clinical had a reputation in its mark in Perth, Western Australia. Pham Global contended, however, that reputation was not enough to succeed under s 60 when Pham Global was operating 3,000+km away in NSW and Tasmania where, it contended, Insight Clinical’s reputation did not extend.

The Full Court first pointed out that s 60(a) required only a reputation in Australia. It did not require a reputation throughout Australia. Accordingly, the first requirement under s 60 was satisfied, and s 60 was engaged.

Immediately following that conclusion, however, the Full Court appeared to accept the basic thrust of Pham Global’s argument, recognising that there had to be a causal link between the proven reputation and the potential for deception or confusion.

The Full Court recognised that what and how much reputation might be required to give rise to sufficient risk of deception or confusion would depend on the relevant field of activity. Much of the Full Court’s consideration concentrates on affirming the trial Judge’s findings that Insight Clinical had a reputation with relevant sections of the public outside WA through its attendance and advertising at national conferences, evidence of some interstate referrals and advertising for staff on national websites and Google search “hits”. In that connection, the trial Judge had recorded evidence of one referral to Insight Clinical from Victoria, two from NSW, four from Queensland and one each from South Australia and the Northern Territory. Her Honour also identified Insight Clinical as having provided services to 237 interstate patients.[2]

At [81], their Honours emphasised the national nature of much commercial activity today:

Conagra was decided 25 years ago. In 1992 the World Wide Web was in its infancy. There were no publicly available internet browsers. There was no Google, no Seek, no web browsing or the like. With the internet and travel both overseas and within Australia now ubiquitous in the lives of Australian people, the essential conceptual underpinning of IR’s case is unsound. IR accepted that, before IR conceived of the IR composite mark, ICI had acquired a substantial reputation in its marks in Western Australia. IR’s case depended on the proposition that ICI’s reputation in its marks did not extend outside Western Australia and IR would accept any condition or limitation not to use its marks in Western Australia. We accept that the Act permits a condition or limitation to this effect to be imposed (discussed below). But the reality of modern life, with widespread use of the internet for advertising, job seeking, news gathering, entertainment, and social discourse and free and frequent movement of people across Australia for work, leisure, family and other purposes, necessarily impacts on both the acquisition of a reputation in a mark and the likelihood of the use of another mark being likely to deceive or confuse because of that reputation. Given current modes of communication and discourse and free and unfettered rights of travel within Australia, a substantial reputation in Western Australia in this national industry constituted a sufficient reputation in and across Australia for s 60(b) to be engaged. IR’s attempts to subdivide the nation into its component States and Territories, in the present context at least, could not succeed. Its approach resonates with sentimental notions of pre or early Federation train track gauge differences. (emphasis supplied)

In similar vein, Pham Global’s offer to accept a voluntary disclaimer that its registration did not extend to WA was rejected. The proposed disclaimer read:

Registration of this trade mark gives no exclusive right to use or authorise the use of the words INSIGHT RADIOLOGY in the State of Western Australia

While s 74 did not provide a statutory basis for the proposed disclaimer as the proposal was not limited to a part of the mark only, s 33 and s 55 did. The Full Court said at [89]:

The national nature of the market and the fact of free and unfettered movement around Australia cannot be ignored. Despite IR’s express willingness not to use the IR composite mark at all in Western Australia, there is one national specialist market for radiological services of which Western Australia forms a substantial part. Given the facts set out above, use of the IR composite mark outside Western Australia will not ameliorate the likelihood of a substantial number of people in the relevant class around Australia being deceived or confused. As a result, the use of the IR composite mark in Australia is a use which would be likely to deceive and cause confusion. Moreover, enforcement of any such condition would be problematic. The prospect that IR’s behaviour could be disciplined by infringement or other proceedings at the suit of ICI if IR used its mark in Western Australia contrary to the condition may not be a satisfactory answer to the deception or confusion that might be caused in the interim. IR’s submissions did not satisfactorily confront any of these matters.

Pham Global Pty Ltd v Insight Clinical Imaging Pty Ltd [2017] FCAFC 83


  1. For previous posts on the ruling that the trade mark was invalid because Mr Pham was not the proper applicant see here and the trade mark was substantially identical to Insight Clinical’s see here.  ?
  2. At [78] and [79] respectively. The Full Court referred to 440 patients. The national conferences were directed to the relevant professions: radiographer and radiologists, both of which were registered to practice nationally and regulated and organised on a national basis: [65] – [66].  ?