Mortimer J has dismissed Shape Shopfitters claims against Shape Australia for misleading or deceptive conduct, passing off and trade mark infringement.
Much of the focus of the decision is on the misleading or deceptive conduct claim (and will have to be the subject of a future post). This post will look at the trade mark infringement claim.
Shape Shopfitters has registered Trade Mark No. 1731525 for shopfitting, construction and advisory services relating to construction in class 37 for this trade mark:
It alleged that Shape Australia infringed that trade mark by using these signs:
Shape Australia provided construction services, apparently on a much larger scale, but was not specifically engaged in shopfitting – sub-contracting out those parts of its jobs. Also, Shape Australia did not provide its services to the particular people who were customers of Shape Shopfitters.
Mortimer J found that Shape Australia’s trade marks were not deceptively similar to Shape Shopfitters’. Her Honour considered that the imperfect recollection of the relevant public would recall not just the word SHAPE, but also its collocation with the word Shopfitters (albeit it was subsidiary) and the distinctive “bottle cap” shape of the border.
Of the four elements comprising Shape Shopfitters’ trade mark (apart from the blue colouring), Mortimer J explained:
- The use of capitals for the word “SHAPE” in the applicant’s Mark is, I accept, a feature likely to be recalled. In part, it is the use of capitals which is likely to make the word “shape” stick in the memory, as well as its proportionate size in the Mark. It is also correct that the word “Shopfitters” is much smaller, as is “Est 1998”. I see no basis to find that the latter phrase would be generally recalled, however I consider the word “Shopfitters” may well be recalled in conjunction with the word “SHAPE”. There is an alliterative effect between the two words, as well the positioning of “Shopfitters” underneath the word “SHAPE”. An industry participant’s eye (to take the applicant’s wider class of people) will, in my opinion, be drawn to that word as well and what is just as likely to be recalled is the phrase “SHAPE Shopfitters”, rather than just the word “SHAPE”.
As a result, the prospect that the word mark would be deceptively similar was roundly dismissed. The two devices with the word in a circle were closer, but the absence of the word Shopfitters and the difference between a circle and the “bottle cap” border were decisive.
- The Circle Mark and the Transparent Mark have a closer similarity, because of – in combination – the use of capitals of the word “SHAPE”, the placement of that word inside a circle, and the use of a circle itself. However, as I have set out, in my opinion even imperfectly, a reasonable industry participant of ordinary intelligence and memory is likely to recall the word “Shopfitters” in conjunction with the word “Shape”, especially because of the alliteration involved. I also consider such a person will recall the applicant’s Mark has a distinctive border that is not a smooth circle.
- I do not consider the evidence about several industry participants referring to the applicant as “SHAPE” affects these findings in a way which means that word would be recalled as the only essential feature of the applicant’s Mark. Rather, that evidence is evidence of the contraction of the applicant’s business and trading name in ordinary speech, and such a contraction does not necessarily carry over to what a reasonable person is likely to recall of the applicant’s Mark. It goes only to how industry participants might refer to the applicant in conversation.
Given these findings, it was unnecessary for her Honour to express an opinion on whether the registration of Shape Shopfitters’ trade mark with the blue background imposed a limitation on the scope of the registration.
Mortimer J’s conclusions do not explicitly turn on the fields of activity of the respective parties, apparently a closely fought battle in the context of the misleading or deceptive conduct case. Indeed, at  her Honour expressly said it made no difference whether the relevant public was defined as the “buyers” of construction services or participants in the commercial construction industry.
Shape Shopfitters Pty Ltd v Shape Australia Pty Ltd (No 3)  FCA 865
- Although Shape Australia was much larger than Shape Shopfitters, you might recall that for much of its life it had operated under the name ISIS Group Australia and had changed its name after Shape Shopfitters came on to the scene and the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess took on some rather unfortunate (to say the least) connotations. ?
- Referring to s 70 read with the definition of “limitation” provided by s 6. ?