Imagine this scenario. You’re a small, New Zealand based clothing business named Ruby. You’ve been operating for nine years. Cotton On, a large, multinational Australian company applies to IPONZ for a name to be trademarked that is very similar to yours – Rubi. It’s accepted. The multinational opens its doors. All of a sudden your customers start calling you up asking about the new stores. You say it has nothing to do with you. Confusion ensues. You investigate, only to discover that the trademark application has already gone through, so you’re basically left with two options – allow the multinational to trade under the same name as you, or follow the lengthy and expensive process of applying to have them deregistered. It gets worse. In a classic big business, bully-tactic move, Cotton On has just applied to IPONZ to have Ruby’s trademark deregistered.
So says Ruby’s owner Christine Vere:
“Basically the situation is that IPONZ (Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand) has granted Cotton On the registration of Rubi Shoes in the same categories as us.
This effectively has not only taken away our right to stop them trading under the same name as us but also removed our opportunity of ever opening RUBY shoes. Our only option is to go through IPONZ’s process of protesting or just let Rubi shoes operate in the same market.
Two weeks ago Cotton On applied for the RUBY trademark to be deregistered. We are now in the process of defending our trademark through the IPONZ system. This is not only totally unfair, expensive and stressful – but we are now in a position of protecting something that New Zealand’s supposed business security system should never allow. It’s very frustrating and something all New Zealand businesses should be wary of.”
Close Up ran a story on Ruby VS Rubi a couple of weeks ago, and in the piece Cotton On was quoted as saying they were “Unaware of the existence of Ruby Apparel until recently,” and that they believe that the two Ruby(i)s “Can coexist in New Zealand without creating consumer confusion [due to the] vast differences between the look and feel of each brand, and the price”.
Obviously this is a ridiculously unfair situation, so here’s what you can do to help. Email IPONZ at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your concerns about Rubi Shoes being granted registration and more importantly your outrage at Cotton On’s application to have Ruby deregistered.
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