Intellectual Property

Business ready: Why Telstra and Vodafone are gearing up to fight a legal battle for SMEs

Kirsten Robb /

Telstra and Vodafone are lawyering up to fight a trademark battle over the words ‘ready business’ with a very valuable end prize in mind: the SME telecommunications market.

Telstra has made an effort to block Vodafone’s trademark of the term, with Telstra Corporation Limited filing an opposition against its rival with IP Australia in December.

The defensive move to protect its brand comes as Telstra was yesterday included in the top 100 brands in the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking for the first time, coming in at number 82 with a brand value of $US12.7 billion ($16.3 billion).

According to IP Australia records, Vodafone Group—the UK-based parent company of Vodafone Australia—lodged a trademark application for the term in August last year across both the telecommunications and advertising classes. The intellectual property regulator accepted the registration in October.

Vodafone markets its business solution products under the name ‘Ready Business’ in Europe and New Zealand.

But Telstra markets some of its digital business products with the phrase, ‘Ready for Business’. A Telstra spokeswoman confirmed to Fairfax the company’s opposition related to the telco’s Digital Office Technology (DOT) product set, which offers products to SMEs such as live chat and virtual helpdesks.

The two companies sought legal counsel from firms Davies Collison Cave and Banki Haddock Fiora, which are representing Telstra and Vodafone respectively. The two firms were contacted by SmartCompany but declined to comment on the ongoing legal case.

However, a Telstra spokesperson confirmed to SmartCompany the telco has now filed for a cooling off period as it seeks a resolution with Vodafone.

SmartCompany contacted Vodafone but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Small business customers are a lucrative market for the telcos, with Vodafone Australia chief financial officer James Marsh previously telling Fairfax the SME business market was worth $4.5 billion per year and would be a key area of growth for the business.

But NDA Law director and partner John MacPhail told SmartCompany under intellectual property law the terms ‘ready business’ and ‘ready for business’ are quite dissimilar.

“Conceptually, they are actually quite different,” MacPhail says.

“I don’t think people will really confuse the two and think they are from the same source.”

For that reason, MacPhail believes Telstra would “really be pushed” to suggest ‘ready business’ is too close to ‘ready for business’, although he says he can see why the telco made the defensive move against Vodafone.

“Why wouldn’t they want to at least try to stop one of their closest competitors?” MacPhail says.

“But the likelihood of them succeeding in an opposition is really quite low.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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