Bondi Beach in trademark wrangle
Why Abercrombie & Fitch thinks it owns Bondi Beach
Abercrombie & Fitch, a US based retailer with over US$3.5 billion in annual revenue is the registered owner of the 'Bondi Beach' trademark, which covers an extensive range of retail categories, including; lotions, creams, oils, linens, jewellery, clothing, accessories, footwear and headgear.
When Bondi Wash, an Aussie based fragrance company, applied to trademark its name in the US they were rejected due to the similarity with one of the many Abercrombie & Fitch trademarks.
When you look into it the reason makes sense, in a 20th century kind of way.
Under US law, geographic names can be refused registration but only if the geographic location is of primary significance to relevant consumers in the USA. This mattered little when markets were primarily local, but with the internet opening up global commerce the ball park has clearly changed.
The impact is actually quite extensive. Other trademarked categories in the US include such iconic Australian place names as Sydney (golf clubs, kitchen cabinets and toy accessories), Melbourne (outdoor furniture, motorhomes, handbags and hardware), the capital Canberra (toy furniture, fabric and wall paneling), Uluru (barbecue grills and mats) and Kakadu (machine tools and beauty care).
As they say in the classics, that's a fair suck of the sav! (not fair) Even the local mayor Sally Betts has got into the row, being quoted by the ABC as saying "Everybody uses the name Bondi Beach, and for it just to be restricted by one organisation in the whole of America, it just seems wrong. It's just completely wrong.".
Interestingly this global phenomena has spawned a number of local challenges for companies expanding into new markets, such a trademark squatters in places like China. Yes, trademark squatters are a real thing.
In June, Bondi Wash withdrew it's challenge to Abercrombie & Fitch's claim over the Bondi Beach trademark.
It appears Abercrombie & Fitch established the 'Bondi Beach' trademark in 2011 to support their brand's presence in Australia, as their first store was opened in Melbourne in 2012. But by mid 2015 they were gone, instead focusing on expansion in Asia. The irony is that a trademark established to support business in Australia is effectively hindering Australian companies selling their products in the US.
Thankfully Australia has its own laws around geographic trademarks. They are generally not registrable, unless evidence can be provided of extensive prior use, or unless distinctive elements such as logos are added. Like our lovely little logo below.
Speaking of which, if you'd like one of our lovely BondBeach.com coffee mugs or beer stubbies check out our gear.