The Sydney Opera House has launched court action to stop a Chinese organisation registering a trademark that includes a depiction of the landmark’s iconic sails.
In a Federal Court case filed on Monday, the Sydney Opera House Trust asked the court to direct the Registrar of Trade Marks to refuse to register the logo of the Australia China Economics, Trade & Culture Association (ACETCA),an organisation that has faced allegations it has “close ties” to thw Chinese government.
The logo includes a stylised version of the Opera House sails and Chinese characters to the right, which the organisation says “may be translated into English as China Trade Association”.
On November 9, a delegate of the Registrar of Trade Marks rejected a bid by the Opera House Trust to block the registration of the logo. The Trust had argued the association’s logo “contains a sign that is identical or deceptively similar to the Sydney Opera House Logo”, itself a registered trademark.
The Opera House lodged a Federal Court appeal. It argues in court documents the association’s logo is “likely to deceive or cause confusion” and wrongly suggest a connection between the Opera House Trust and the ACETCA, such as a sponsorship or endorsement relationship.
It says the Sydney Opera House logo, also featuring stylised sails, is “well-known in Australia” and the Trust has “acquired a substantial reputation in the Sydney Opera House Logo in respect of a vast array of goods and services”. In light of that reputation, it believes the association’s logo “would be likely to deceive or cause confusion”.
In 2018, China influence experts Professor Clive Hamilton and Australian Strategic Policy Institute researcher Alex Joske named the ACETCA in a submission to a federal parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security as an organisation with “close ties” to the Chinese Communist Party.
The organisation has rejected that characterisation as “absurd”. The ACETCA’s website states it is an apolitical organisation “primarily made up of Chinese businessmen” living in Australia.
It says its mission is “to strengthen ties between Australia and China … by promoting trade, cultural and charitable objectives”.
The ACETCA is expected to file a response at a later date. The matter has yet to proceed to a preliminary hearing.
The Federal Court has fielded a series of trademarks spats this year, including a bun fight between McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s over the “Big Jack” burger.