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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The clock is ticking - time for trade mark owners to keep watch

By Senior Associate Mark Williams

A recent decision of the Australian Trade Marks Office, along with the Raising the Bar legislative changes, has placed greater pressure on trade mark owners to keep a watch on the trade mark activities of their competitors.

In Bridgestone Corporation v Zylux Distribution Pty Ltd 2013 ATMO 19, a Trade Marks Hearing Officer considered Bridgestone's application for a late extension of time in which to oppose a trade mark application based on 'an error or omission by the person applying for an extension of time, or by that person's agent'. In denying the application, the Hearing Officer confirmed that case law which states that there must be a causal connection between the error by the agent, and the opponent's failure to file the notice of opposition.

Bridgestone was not aware of the existence of the Zylux application due to an error by its agent in referring an examination report. Despite submissions from its representative that, if it had been aware of the Zylux application before the opposition deadline, Bridgestone would have opposed, the Hearing Officer noted the absence of any evidence demonstrating that:

  • Bridgestone had undertaken any search of the Register prior to filing; or
  • Bridgestone or its representative considered it appropriate to keep a watch for similar marks on the Australian Register.

In light of the Raising the Bar legislative amendments which came into effect on 15 April 2013, which shortened the opposition deadline to two months from the date of advertisement of acceptance, it is now even more important for trade mark owners to keep a watch out for applications for similar trade marks. To this end, it would be prudent for trade mark owners to consider implementing monthly trade mark watches which can be conducted by reference to mark, class(es) or party name.

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