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Court case looms as Taronga Zoo looks to claim ‘Sydney Zoo’ name
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is set to sue the operators of a planned new wildlife attraction in the city’s west over its proposed use of the name Sydney Zoo, claiming it is misleading and deceptive without the qualification it is in ‘western Sydney’.
Plans for the $36 million cage-free Sydney Zoo in the Western Sydney Parklands at Bungarribee in Blacktown were revealed in 2015 and the venture received final planning approval in September last year.
The not-for-profit Taronga Zoo has launched a Federal Court bid to stop the proponents using the name Sydney Zoo on the grounds it is likely to mislead the public, including international and interstate tourists, into thinking the western Sydney attraction is the "long-established and well-known" Taronga Zoo and is "located in central Sydney".
Taronga Zoo’s lawyers said Sydney Zoo, which will be located "over 33 kilometres from the centre of Sydney", chose its name "with the knowledge and intention that the geographic indicator of Sydney would increase the appeal" of its zoo to visitors, particularly tourists.
Located in Mosman on the north shore of Sydney Harbour, Taronga Zoo says that the use of the term ‘Sydney Zoo’ by its rival amounted to a false or misleading representation, suggesting that it is located in "central Sydney rather than western Sydney".
Taronga Zoo said international and interstate visitors comprised about 50% of its foot traffic over the past four years, totalling about 1.5 million visitors a year.
It said members of the public were likely to understand the words ‘Sydney Zoo’ as a reference to Taronga Zoo and the term was "not merely descriptive of any zoos in the Sydney area".
Taronga Zoo filed the misleading and deceptive conduct claim in the Federal Court on 15th January, along with a related case challenging Sydney Zoo's application to trademark the name in a logo featuring animal silhouettes in front of a rising sun.
IP Australia, the Commonwealth agency that administers intellectual property rights, said in a decision in January that Taronga Zoo had failed to establish any of its grounds for opposing the registration of Sydney Zoo's trademark.
That decision is now being challenged in the Federal Court.
IP Australia said it rejected Taronga Zoo's submissions that there was "something improper" about Sydney Zoo in Blacktown using Sydney as a geographical descriptor because, "like Mosman", the proposed zoo was "located in metropolitan Sydney".
Sydney Aquarium founder John Burgess and his son Jake, who are behind the plans for Sydney Zoo, lodged an application to register the Sydney Zoo trademark in May 2015 after registering it as a business name in August 2012.
In November 2015, Taronga Zoo lodged applications to register as trademarks the words ‘Taronga Sydney zoo’ and a logo featuring the words ‘Sydney zoo’ and its widely used platypus icon.
Taronga Zoo told IP Australia a "significant proportion of the public think of Taronga Zoo when they see the term 'Sydney zoo'".
In support of that claim, it relied on a consumer survey and an analysis of Google search algorithms and tags on social media site Instagram.
However, in its January decision, IP Australia said there was no evidence Taronga used Sydney zoo as a trademark. A delegate for the registrar for trademarks said the mere fact some people used the term ‘Sydney Zoo’ to search for Taronga Zoo on Google, or the hashtag #sydneyzoo to caption photos of Taronga Zoo on Instagram, did not mean the term was used as a trademark.
Neither Taronga Zoo nor Sydney Zoo are the owners of a registered trademark featuring the words Sydney Zoo.
That distinction belongs to a UK-based attractions company, Merlin Entertainments, which owns and operates Darling Harbour attractions Madame Tussauds, the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and the neighbouring WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.
Merlin's trademark includes the words ‘Wild Life Sydney Zoo’ and ‘the Australian animal adventure’ in a logo featuring a hopping kangaroo and an outline of Australia.
Taronga said in documents filed with IP Australia that it already dealt with "regular instances of consumer confusion where a member of the public has purchased a ticket for WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo ... and seeks entry into Taronga Zoo".
The Federal Court cases dues for preliminary hearings on Tuesday.
Uncertainty also surrounds how the proposed Sydney Zoo will stock the attraction when it opens.
Promotional material for the new attraction has highlighted that it will feature lions, cheetahs, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes and rhinoceros.
However, doubts exist about the Zoo’s ability to source its planned exotic animals with international treaties requiring zoos to access animals from breading programs rather than the wild.
At community meetings its backers have suggested that they will acquire surplus animals from zoos already in Australia and that other animals will be sourced through the correct legal channels.
Images: Taronga Zoo's entrance (top) and artist's impressions of animal exhibits at the planned (Western) Sydney Zoo, from top: elephants, tigers and the aquarium (middle and below).
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13th February 2017 - WESTERN SYDNEY ZOO PROPOSAL SUBMITTED TO PLANNING COMMISSION FOR FINAL DECISION
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30th November 2015 - TARONGA ZOO AND TARONGA WESTERN PLAINS ZOO RECOGNISED AT NSW TOURISM AWARDS
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27th August 2015 - WILD LIFE SYDNEY ZOO CELEBRATES BIRTH OF KOALA JOEY
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