An obscure Malaysian company applied to trademark the term ‘MH17’ in Australia, less than one day after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 passengers and crew.
The move comes after a Victoria-based insurance firm apologised late last week for purchasing ‘MH17’ on Google Adwords to promote its life insurance.
A Kuala Lumpur-based company named Remit Now International applied to IP Australia to trademark “MH17” within the Class 41 services category, which covers entertainment services usage including films, online video games, plays and musicals.
What Remit Now International actually does is unknown, with its website referring to an obscure function of “company formation and bank account set up”. It listed a residential address in Kuala Lumpur on its application, as well as a PO Box address in Southport, Queensland.
Malaysia Airlines also applied to trademark the term, four days after the crash, but in categories Class 9 (scientific) and Class 16 (paper), as well as Class 41. It is thought the company tried to trademark the term to protect it being misused by other parties.
Finlaysons intellectual property, media and technology partner John MacPhail told SmartCompany there will likely be a battle between Remit Now and Malaysia Airlines.
“Very often you’ll have a skirmish and trademark fight to lock in rights,” says MacPhail.
He says if the application does succeed, it would give Remit Now the ability to use the trademark on an entertainment service, not a product, such as an online game or app, or a motion picture.
McPhail points out Remit Now actually filed for the trademark in the US the day before it filed for the trademark in Australia. But he says under international trademark law, once an application has been made for a trademark in one country, the applicant has an international priority to filing the term for the next six months, so there was no reason to file the next day in Australia.
MacPhail says this suggests the company doesn’t really know what they are doing.
“I’m not sure where this is going to get them. A lot of people have the misguided thinking that there is an opportunity to make money [trademarking a topical term], but there generally isn’t,” he says.
“People realise later on there’s no real value in [such trademarks].”
SmartCompany attempted to contact Remit Now International, put did not receive a response prior to publication.
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