Trade marks as security for costs

Lindgren J has ordered that the owners of the WILD TURKEY trade mark (which those of you who drink bourbon may be familiar with) provide security for costs before they can pursue their Federal Court application to have WILD GEESE removed from the Register of Trade Marks.

Lindgren J accepted that the owners, members of the international Pernod Ricard or Davide Campari groups, would have sufficient funds to satisfy an order of costs if they were unsuccessful. However, the purpose of s 56 of the Federal Court of Australia Act was to ensure that there was a fund available within Australia to satisfy the costs order.

His Honour accepted that there were procedures available to enforce money judgments against the owners in their home base(s) eg New York, but those procedures placed an additional burden on a party seeking satisfaction of a costs order over and above the difficulties a party litigating against an Australian based entity would incur.

Lindgren J then rejected the owners’ argument that their registered trade marks in Australia were sufficiently liquid assets within the jurisdiction. They were indeed assets, but they were not “sufficiently liquid”.

44 With respect, the applicants’ submissions fail to grapple with the critical question whether the bare trade marks would be readily convertible into cash by sale to satisfy an adverse order for costs.

45 The evidence to which the applicants refer is not evidence of a sale of the trade marks as items of property distinct from a sale of the underlying business.

46 Considerable difficulty might be experienced in realising the trade marks if Lodestar ever had to take that course. The underlying business would remain that of Rare Breed. A prospective buyer of the trade marks would know that Rare Breed would remain a competitor in the Australian market, albeit under a mark or name dissimilar to the trade marks.

47 Moreover, the only prospective buyers would be sizeable corporations that were in the same line of business in Australia or wished to embark upon such a line of business in Australia. If they already traded under a trade mark or business name, they might not be prepared to abandon it in order to buy and use Rare Breed’s trade marks. Would they be interested to acquire those trade marks in addition?

48 It may be that a receiver would eventually be able to sell the trade marks but the course of doing so would or might well be fraught with considerable difficulty and delay.

With respect, the applicants’ submissions fail to grapple with the critical question whether the bare trade marks would be readily convertible into cash by sale to satisfy an adverse order for costs.
The evidence to which the applicants refer is not evidence of a sale of the trade marks as items of property distinct from a sale of the underlying business.
Considerable difficulty might be experienced in realising the trade marks if Lodestar ever had to take that course. The underlying business would remain that of Rare Breed. A prospective buyer of the trade marks would know that Rare Breed would remain a competitor in the Australian market, albeit under a mark or name dissimilar to the trade marks.
Moreover, the only prospective buyers would be sizeable corporations that were in the same line of business in Australia or wished to embark upon such a line of business in Australia. If they already traded under a trade mark or business name, they might not be prepared to abandon it in order to buy and use Rare Breed’s trade marks. Would they be interested to acquire those trade marks in addition?
It may be that a receiver would eventually be able to sell the trade marks but the course of doing so would or might well be fraught with considerable difficulty and delay.

Similarly, his Honour rejected the Australian distribution rights for Wild Turkey.

Austin, Nichols & Co Inc v Lodestar Anstalt [2009] FCA 1228

Lid dip POF

Beery barefeet on appeal

Curiouser and Curiouser!

The Full Court has affirmed the trial judge’s finding that Gallo’s registration of the trade mark BAREFOOT for wine should be removed for non-use. However, the Full Court has overturned his Honour’s finding that Lion Nathan’s use of Barefoot Radler for beer did not infringe that registration (before it was removed). Consequently, the Full Court has found that Lion Nathan did infringe the registration up until the date the registration was removed from the Register.

Gallo acquired the trade mark by assignment. Neither it nor the assignor had ever consciously used it in Australia.  However, some wine bearing the trade mark had made their way into Australia for resale via, presumably, a parallel importer. (More detailed summary of the facts from the decision at 1st instance here and here – the internal links are broken I’m afraid.)

On the question of whether or not Gallo (or its predecessor) had used the trade mark as a trade mark, the Full Court said:

34 In our opinion, the conclusion of the primary judge was correct. The contention of Gallo that an owner of a registered trademark uses the mark in Australia simply because goods to which the owner (or an authorised user) has affixed the mark are traded in the ordinary course of trade in Australia should be rejected.

and

38 …. The essence of Gallo’s case in this matter is this is all that is necessary to establish use in Australia by the manufacturer or producer. However, that is not what the Full Court said. Projection by the manufacturer of goods bearing its mark into the course of trade in Australia was the other factor which, together with the display, sale or offering for sale, led to the conclusion that there had been use of the mark in Australia by the manufacturer and its owner. We think fairly plainly what the Full Court was saying was that for there to be use in Australia of the mark by the owner, the owner of the mark must have engaged in conduct of some type which the owner might reasonably contemplate would result in dealings with its goods marked with its mark in Australia while the goods were in the course of trade.

As a matter of interpretation, the Full Court concluded, contrary to Lion Nathan, that the trade mark could be expunged only from the date the Court made the order under s 101.

This was particularly significant because the Full Court, as noted above, found that Lion Nathan’s use infringed the trade mark while it was registered.

First, the Full Court rejected the trial judge’s finding that beer and wine were not goods of the same description:

72 The primary judge accepted that there were a number of factors which supported the view that Lion Nathan’s beer and wine were goods at the same description. They were both alcoholic beverages and generally distributed by this same major wholesale distributors. The beer was intended to be an appealing alternative to wine and in developing the product, Lion Nathan deliberately set out to attract people who did not drink beer. Indeed it was developed with the deliberate objective of enticing consumers who previously drank wine but not beer. Producers of alcoholic beverages are no longer confined to the production of beer, as opposed to wine, and large producers of alcoholic beverages now produce a range of products and market themselves as doing so. Companies which were once brewers now market and distribute a range of products including beer, wine, spirits, cider and non-alcoholic drinks. Wine and beer are now frequently distributed by the same retailers. We agree that these matters point, and in our opinion point convincingly, to Lion Nathan’s beer and wine being goods of the same description.

73 The considerations which led his Honour to reach the opposite conclusion are, in our opinion, of materially less significance. The first, which concerned the origin of the goods, focused on the manner of manufacture of beer on the one hand and wine on the other. While this clearly establishes that they are not the same goods, it is unlikely that this difference would be significant to the consuming public if, as his Honour found, large producers of alcoholic beverages produce a range of products. Additionally it is important to bear in mind that this issue is being considered in the more general context of whether consumers might see the goods as having the same trade origin: Southern Cross at 606. The same can be said of the next consideration relied on by his Honour, namely the specific manner of sale in restaurants on the one hand and retail outlets on the other. If large producers of alcoholic beverages are producing a range of products then the fact that the wine might be sold in a slightly different way would not be a difference of significance to the consuming public who may come to consider the trade origins of Lion Nathan’s beer. The next consideration was the manner in which beer is consumed, that is drunk for its refreshing qualities, and not, like wine, consumed in a “sipping fashion”. For our part, we doubt this is a relevant consideration. Nor do we think the last consideration, the detailed corporate structure of Lion Nathan, is of any real significance.

Then, the Full Court upheld the trial judge’s finding that Lion Nathan’s BAREFOOT RADLER trade mark was deceptively similar to Gallo’s trade mark.

Finally, the Full Court rejected Lion Nathan’s attempt to rely on the (rarely used) proviso to s 120(2)(b) which provides:

However, the person is not taken to have infringed the trade mark if the person establishes that using the sign as the person did is not likely to deceive or cause confusion.

The Full Court foreshadowed that this was a tough requirement to hurdle:

76 …. However, any conclusion about deceptive similarity would usually inform consideration of whether the actual use was likely to deceive or cause confusion. In a sense, an affirmative answer to the question of whether the alleged infringing mark was deceptively similar would be the starting point. If it was, then it would, in many instances, render it more likely (though not inevitable) that the actual use of the allegedly infringing mark was likely to deceive or cause confusion. Also relevant, in our opinion, would be the matters considered in determining whether the alleged infringer’s goods are of the same description as the goods in respect of which the registered mark is registered.

Lion Nathan had not satisfied this requirement here. The facts that the usage was on beer, the beer was packaged in six packs and in retail stores from the “beer” section did not help:

77 …. The use of the image of a bare foot with the words “BAREFOOT RADLER” would be more likely to reinforce the significance or prominence of the word “BAREFOOT”. The fact that the allegedly infringing mark was on beer packaged in the way described does not, in our opinion, tell against the likelihood that a person looking at beer packaged in this way would think that the beer originated from Gallo. If, in a retail liquor outlet, there was beer bearing the trade mark “BAREFOOT RADLER” where the word “RADLER” was the description of a type of beer and also wine with the trade mark “BAREFOOT” immediately followed by a description of the type of wine (by reference to grape type), then there is, in our opinion, little room to doubt that it is likely many would view the former as originating from the producer of the latter.

The matter will be remitted to the trial judge to deal with remedies. Wonder what the damages will be?

So, it would seem you should bring and conclude your non-use action before you launch the product. That will require a client with a very long term commitment to the brand!

E & J Gallo Winery v Lion Nathan Australia Pty Limited [2009] FCAFC 27 (Moore, Edmonds and Gilmour JJ)

Not using (but keeping) Pioneer

Prof. Mark Davison reviews Bennett J’s recent decision allowing Pioneer, by an exercise of discretion, to keep its registration for , even though it had no use of, or intention to use, the trade mark in respect of those goods.

Pioneer Computers Australia Pty Limited v Pioneer KK [2009] FCA 135

Barefoot deeper into the drink

Not only did E & J Gallo fail in its infringement action against Lion Nathan’s Barefoot Radler mark for beer, but Lion Nathan successfully applied to get E & J Gallo’s trade mark removed for non-use.  Various grounds were advanced to support the use of the trade mark.  The surprising thing about this second part of the case, however, is that wine labelled with E & J Gallo’s trade mark was actually sold in Australia during the relevant non-use period.

(For the background and the first part of the case see here.)

The non-use period ran from 2004 to 2007.  E & J Gallo had acquired the trade mark by assignment in January 2005.  Neither E & Gallo’s predecessor, nor E & J Gallo had exported wine under the trade mark to Australia in the relevant period.  

What happened was that E & J Gallo’s predecessor had exported some 60 cases of wine to Germany in 2001.  Somehow, some of this wine made its way to Australia and was offered for sale, and sold, by someone known as Beach Avenue Wholesalers.

Flick J rejected the contention that the fact of the offering for sale and sale by Beach Avenue Wholesalers was sufficient to constitute use of the trade mark.  His Honour also rejected the contention that Beach Avenue Wholesalers, someone who neither E & J Gallo nor its predecessor ever knew of or heard about was an authorised user of the trade mark.

His Honour distinguished Estex Clothing Manufacturers Pty Ltd v Ellis & Goldstein Ltd (1967) 116 CLR 254 on the grounds that the trade mark owner there had consciously projected its goods into the course of trade in Australia.

One interesting thing about this approach is it is directly at odds with the cases, and reasoning, on why parallel imports don’t infringe trade marks: the fact that the trade mark owner had put the goods on the market anywhere was and is sufficient.

An appeal from Flick J’s decision is scheduled for hearing in November, NSD1085/2008