All bets are off


Battle heats up for sports betting superstars

As the battle for share of consumer attention heats up and we increasingly transact our lives on our mobile phones, businesses are employing some dubious tactics to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Take the online betting industry, for instance. Over the past 6 years, the number of Australians placing bets over the internet has doubled to 34.1% of the population. Those betting on their mobile phones has also increased four-fold, and is now just over 1 in every 5 of us.

As you would expect, this rapid growth has led to some fierce competition for market share among the large players in the industry, with mixed results.

Australians who bet using the internet and mobile phones

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, April 2011 – March 2012 to April 2017 – March 2018. Base: Australians aged 18+ who had a bet in the last 12 months. Average of 3,137 per 12 month period.

Cybersquatting on Starbet

Earlier this year, online gambling platform Ladbrokes discovered that four domains had been registered using derivations of Starbet – a business name owned by Ladbrokes. When a cease and desist letter was sent to the domains’ owner, Bloomdale Proprietary Limited, the response was a demand for $7,000 to transfer the domains to Ladbrokes. A red flag for cybersquatting.

Rather than pay the fee demanded, Ladbrokes promptly submitted a trade mark application for STARBETS and lodged a complaint under the .au Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP).

Ladbrokes was able to establish that Bloomdale, the owner of the domains, was associated with online gambling competitor CrownBet, and that the domains were registered in bad faith. Ladbrokes was successful in its dispute and the names were successfully transferred to its control.

What is cybersquatting?

The practice of registering domain names in bad faith. These are domains which infringe on trade marks, cause confusion and/or are purchased with no legitimate intention to use them. The cybersquatter then aims to sell the domains at a grossly inflated price. Find out more.

Take away

Register all key terms that are distinct to your brand as trade marks, not just your trading name. Trade mark registration is the only way to properly protect a brand.

Once you have secured trade mark registration, it is vital to regularly audit and monitor your marks. You can’t take action to defend your brand if you aren’t aware of what’s happening in the marketplace.

A deceptive similarity

In close succession to the cybersquatting scenario, CrownBet found itself in the ring once again, this time up against competitor Sportsbet.

When former majority owner Crown Resorts sold its stake in the business in February, CrownBet faced an opportunity to rebrand. However, after the company applied to corporate regulator ASIC to reserve the company name Sportingbet Pty Ltd, Sportsbet quickly pounced. Last month it was granted injunction orders in the Federal Court to stop the rebrand under claims the name was deceptively similar to Sportsbet and was likely to mislead or deceive customers.

Company name v trade mark

ASIC will register company or business names provided they are not identical or near identical to existing registrations. If, however, another business is already operating under a similar name you may be infringing their legal rights, exposing you to costly rectification and legal liability. Find out more.

Take away

Make sure a name is truly available before branding or rebranding your business.

Don’t take a punt on your brand

Policing trade marks is serious business for big brands, and it’s virtually impossible to fly under the radar. These companies watch new trade mark applications very closely, and mobilise dedicated teams to report any potential breaches.

Protecting your brand, and avoiding costly battles, takes a tiered approach:

  1. Perform adequate searches to ensure a name is available before branding your business.
  2. Register trade marks for your key brand elements.
  3. Monitor the market and defend your brand against infringement.

Contact us at protectme@redchip.com.au for more information on protecting your greatest business asset.

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