Melbourne small business to sue Commonwealth Bank for lost revenue after trademark dispute
Melbourne-based human resource consultancy HR Anywhere will launch proceedings against Commonwealth Bank within the week in a bid to recover what it says are unfairly lost earnings.
It’s the latest development in a stoush that began in February, when the Commonwealth Bank registered the domain www.myhranywhere.org, an online HR portal for its own staff.
HR Anywhere, whose website is www.hranywhere.com, has held the trademark on its name for more than seven years. And Nally says that even though, several months later, the Commonwealth Bank has now agreed to stop using that name for its HR portal, its actions have cost his business $100,000 to $200,000 in lost revenue.
“I’m going to do this without emotion, but I’m not going to put up with it,” he told SmartCompany last Friday.
“You can’t just trample over someone’s intellectual property like that. As a percentage of revenue, it’s more valuable to me than it is to the Commonwealth Bank.
“It’s not a generic name – it’s trademarked and I came up with it. It’s really important to me and my business. I’m not a fledgling start-up. It’s been seven years, and I’ve had it registered for longer than that.”
Nally says he was alerted to the existence of the portal in February, when Commonwealth Bank employees began to call his business asking for assistance with their HR issues.
He contacted the bank in July to find out what was going on, and said they alerted him to the existence of the portal.
“They told me it was a ‘generic term’,” Nally says. “I told them it was as generic a term as ‘Commonwealth’, and anyway, I’ve trademarked it.”
Nally says he was concerned that the high volume of Commonwealth Bank employees – all 50,000 of them – checking their HR portal would result in his own website falling lower in Google page rankings when people Googled his company’s name.
After several meetings with Nally, the bank agreed to rename its portal.
In a statement in reponse to SmartCompany's queries, a Commonwealth bank spokesman said the bank believed "the simpliest, most expediant and sensitive solution was to exit the 'HR Anywhere space.
"As such, we have proposed our re-naming solution and are in the process of implementing this change."
Nally says he hasn't been told when this will happen, and the Commonwealth Bank did not answer questions about specifics. In the meanwhile, Nally says he's losing money.
“I’m initiating proceedings this week to cover the damages,” he says. “It could have impacted up to 20% of our revenue.
“Our ranking has dropped. And these things are the lifeblood of our business. We’re entirely digital. We’re early-adopters. We don’t rely on a branch network, we rely on people organically finding us. So our name is hugely important.
“They say they haven’t trademarked it. But it’s like they have. They say it’s internal, but it’s not if they’ve registered domain names anyone can look it up.
“They’re a large organisation, and they’ve become lazy. It’s poor form, and I think it’s unfair.”
SmartCompany has contacted the Commonwealth Bank, and will publish their response when it is received.