In the red corner we have Dick Smith and OzEmite, in the blue corner it’s AussieMite a small family owned business from Adelaide.
Today’s ruling by IP Australia that the two brands sounded to similar to each other so the millionaire businessman has to drop his ‘mite brand – the one he had been pitching against Australian icon Vegemite – exposes the inner workings of trademark law.
Here’s a snapshot of what happened. Dick registered OzEmite in 1999 but it wasn’t approved until 2003. The product itself wasn’t launched until 2012. Meanwhile, the AussieMite brand was registered in ’01 and approved in ’06. So, you’re probably thinking Dick’s brand came first so why did he get ‘hit’ so hard?
Australian trademark law says the owner of a trademark has an obligation to start using it within 5 years or a third party can have it removed from the register. Dick launched his OzEmite 8 years after approval and by then the AussieMite company had already filed to have it removed.