News Limited registered the trademark “News Australia” and a revamped logo in June this year, suggesting the media giant’s plans have been months in the making and casting doubt on a News executive’s claims its rebranding was “speculative”.

The trademark office application, submitted on News’ behalf by lawyers Allens Arthur Robertson and obtained by Crikey, shows an application for the phrase and a rejuvenated “meridian” logo was submitted on June 16.

The application covers the full gamut of potential goods and services provided by News including all electronic properties and newspapers.

Yesterday, after Crikey published a leaked 86-page advertising pitch brief detailing the media giant’s rebranding plans under the code name Project Darwin, News’ chief operating officer Peter Macourt claimed the document was “incomplete” and a “work in progress”.

In a note to staff, Macourt said that despite the document being dated September 15, parts of the document had already been “… superseded or ruled out of any future consideration”.

“The document is incomplete and contains commentary that is speculative,” he said.

“Research referred to in various parts of the document has not yet been completed.

He assured the company’s employees that the “one thing that wont [sic] change is our commitment to journalism and to being the preferred media company in Australia for readers and advertisers.”

News’ motivation for the image refresh, aside from filling the pockets of the advertising agencies and giving internal News marketing staff something to do, remains unclear.

Project Darwin may have been an attempt to distance “News Australia” from its UK sister News International in which public trust has all but evaporated. Many of the key documents in the project’s timeline occurred after Nick Davies’ shocking Milly Dowler revelations splashed in The Guardian in early July.

The trademark application came one day after soccer star Ryan Giggs launched action against News of the World and one week after former UK deputy prime minister John Prescott called on the Cameron Coalition government to launch an inquiry into the matter. On the same day, Scotland Yard confirmed it was investigating allegations of computer-hacking at the paper.

However, if this was thinking, it would appear strange that local CEO John Hartigan would want to boost public recognition of the word “News”, which the document says is currently invisible. It is likely that readers of titles such as Vogue and GQ have little knowledge that their favourite magazines are controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

Media reports this morning said Darwin failed to contain any reference to the News of the World scandal. However, buried on page 21 the masthead is mentioned in terms of its impact on the Australian consumer.

News says that the “plan” to deal with the NotW fallout is to refer to the “TA campaign test”, thought to be a reference to The Australian‘s ‘Think. Again’ branding exercise pilfered from US publication The Atlantic. Another, unexplained, dot point says “go for 80/20 here”.

The paper’s local journalists have taken a curious approach to the name change. The Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph failed to report it.

However, Herald Sun journalist turned Australian media diarist Nick Leys penned a piece this morning quoting Macourt that didn’t attribute the leaked document to Crikey, despite making reference to the story’s source in an earlier online report.

Peter Fray

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