Online bookmaker Sportsbet has secured an interim injunction against CrownBet that temporarily blocks its rival from plans to rebrand its betting company Sportingbet.
Federal Court Justice Mark Moshinksy issued an order Wednesday in Sportsbet’s trade mark and consumer case, restraining CrownBet from offering betting or wagering services using the disputed name.
The order will stay in place pending a ruling in the case, which alleges CrownBet’s plans to change its name to Sportingbet by August 26, was a breach of Sportsbet’s trade marks and the consumer law.
A Sportsbet spokesperson said the decision showed the court shared its concerns that consumers would be misled by the name switch.
“Sportsbet will continue to take all necessary action to protect its brand and prevent deception in the market, and will see the matter through to a final determination if necessary,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesman for CrownBet said the company was disappointed by the decision.
“We’re obviously disappointed and will examine the decision closely and consider all options available to us,” he said.
Judge Moshinsky’s order comes three days after an emergency court hearing, during which Sportsbet’s barrister Colin Golvan, QC, said the company faced significant damages without a temporary injunction.
The planned rebrand was a “classic case” of exploiting the goodwill of Sportsbet, Golvan told the court. He said the rebranding could cause long-term damage to the position of Sportsbet “which could not be properly compensated”, and pointed to the high betting traffic ahead of the AFL grand final in September and the Melbourne Cup in November as reasons to grant the temporary injunction.
Sportsbet said if it won the injunction but lost the trial, it will have ample funds to compensate CrownBet. But if it lost its bid for an injunction, and won at trial, the damages would be incalculable.
CrownBet argued there was no practical possibility of customer confusion.
“If somebody does a generic (internet) search like ‘betting’ or ‘bet’, desiring to find Sportsbet, there is a plethora of results which include ‘sports’ and the word ‘bet’ either as the name of the business or description of what that business does. In these circumstances one expects the consumer to be astute,” Adrian Ryan, SC, barrister for CrownBet said.
“Such a person would be astute to find their way to Sportsbet. We ask, how will it be any different when we are in the market?”
In a statement of claim filed June 21, Sportsbet said CrownBet was threatening to violate its “Sportsbet” trade mark by seeking to trademark the substantially similar “Sportingbet” name. It claimed CrownBet’s actions have been undertaken with “flagrant disregard” for its rights as the owner of the “Sportsbet” trade marks.
CrownBet also claims violations under the Australian Consumer Law. The use of the “Sportingbet” mark by CrownBet would mislead the public into believing its services have been sponsored by or have some other connection with Sportsbet, in violation of the ACL, Sportsbet claims.
The planned rebrand of the Matt Tripp-led CrownBet as Sportingbet comes in the wake of its March acquisition of William Hill’s Australian business. Tripp’s father, Alan, used to own Sportingbet, which was purchased by William Hill about 5 years ago.
Tripp told The Australian recently he was excited to have the Sportingbet business back in the family. In May, CrownBet filed an application to trade mark the word “Sportingbet” for its online gambling services and in June applied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to register the name Sportingbet Pty Ltd.
Sportsbet has carried on its betting and wagering business in Australia under the “Sportsbet” mark since 1991 and on its website www.sportsbet.com.au since 2003, according to the statement of claim. It says it has developed a reputation and goodwill in the “Sportsbet” mark in Australia.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction barring CrownBet from using the mark, an order requiring that CrownBet withdraw its trade mark application, as well as damages and costs.
Sportsbet is represented by Colin Golvan, QC, with Owen Dixon Chambers and solicitors with Corrs Chambers Westgarth. CrownBet is represented by Adrian Ryan, SC, with Owen Dixon Chambers and solicitors with Arnold Bloch Liebler.
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Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.