Crikey! As Steve Irwin was wont to remark. But perhaps he shouldn’t have. Perhaps he was breaching a trademark.

The battle between SBS and your very own Crikey has progressed, but sadly is about to be aborted by Crikey agreeing to change the tag for that section of its site that has been (until today) aggregating coverage of soccer under the tag “the world game”.

Regular readers will remember that the number two national broadcaster issued a legal threat to Crikey earlier this month, claiming that the use of the tag “the world game” was a breach of its trademark. SBS had registered the phrase, together with various logos, to market merchandise, advertising inventory and the like, and had an application underway to register the mere phrase.

Crikey wrote back denying it had breached a trademark. “The world game” it asserted, was a phrase in common use, and Crikey was not trading on it, merely using it as a tag for content.

Now SBS has responded with a long letter which asserts, among other things, that Crikey is selling First Dog on the Moon socks and t-towels by trading off “the world game”:

sbsletter1

“[Crikey] is using the mark The World Game in trade and commerce in the same way that it is using the titles Crikey and Content Makers in trade or commerce. If it was not using these marks in trade or commerce then there would be neither paid advertising nor online retail sales of merchandise available on the site.”

Well, Crikey is throwing in the towel. Editor Sophie Black said this morning that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to fight SBS, and therefore the tag would be taken down.

But she still thinks that SBS’s claim is ridiculous, and that if Crikey opposed its registration of the bare phrase, it would have a good chance of success.

In response to SBS’s claim that Private Media Partners’ wouldn’t like it if its registered trademark “Crikey” were used on SBS’s web sites as tag for content, Black asserts “we wouldn’t mind at all”.

SBS misunderstands the way online works, she claims. A tag is not a trademark, but a mere use of a phrase. And soccer followers get cross if the word “soccer” is used rather than “football”. And use of the word “football” just causes confusion in the Australian context.

And to top it all, Black points out that there is in fact already another subscription email with the name Crikey. It is the publication of the Irwin family’s Australia Zoo.  If Crikey were like SBS, it would protest, she says, but: “I think they are playing to a rather different audience. We are probably safe there.”

Indeed.

As for The Content Makers, before it was a blog at Crikey, it was a book by me published by Penguin. No legal correspondence has been received from Penguin. And we even used the same colours. Crikey.

Peter Fray

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