What’s in a name? A lawsuit, that’s what. Today marks the first day for the Primary Health Networks, brought in by the Abbott government to replace Medicare Locals. But they can’t be called Primary Health networks; in an email sent by the Department of Health to the CEOs of the Primary Health Networks late on Monday afternoon, they were told that they might run into some issue if they used the phrase “primary health network” in their names:

“We are providing this advice in response to a number of queries from PHNs about naming and branding issues, and in anticipation of the commencement of PHNs from 1 July 2015.
As you may be aware, there is currently litigation in the Federal Court by Primary Health Care Ltd in relation to its trademark applications to register the terms ‘Primary Health Care’ and ‘Primary Health Care Limited’. In addition, Primary Health Network Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Primary Health Care Ltd, has recently applied to register the trademark ‘Primary Health Network’. With this in mind, if you choose to use ‘primary health network’ in your name you should seek independent legal advice.”

The email from the Department of Health tells CEOs that they should be referring to themselves as their area and “PHN”, and that they will be required to use consistent branding decided by the department. That the Department of Health — a vast bureaucratic colossus even after non-stop slashing and burning of staff numbers in recent years — waited so late to advise CEOs is quite astonishing: Primary Health Care actually sued over the name in 2010 — and only dropped that case in 2012, when the previous government decided to use the term “Medicare Locals”. Did no one in Health actually remember? Thank goodness these people aren’t actually in charge of anything important. Oh, wait…