Australia’s Supreme Court has thrown out an appeal by an Australian company that was forced to pay $2.3 billion to settle a copyright case that challenged the use of the company’s name.
The High Court ruled in favour of a private company that claimed it infringed on the trademark of another company.
The case involved a lawsuit brought by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) over the use by its network of the name of the ABC television network.
The ABC sought to have the court declare the ABC’s use of ABC TV to be infringement of ABC trademark.
In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the ABC argued the use was not so limited as to cause any harm.
However, the High Court found the ABC could not be forced to settle the case on the grounds of copyright.
The case was heard by Justice Anthony Langer and the court had been set for a hearing in February 2019.
Langer wrote in his judgment that it was clear the case would be heard on the merits.
“There is no merit in the ABC taking the view that the ABC is required to pay a small sum for a case that is not the result of a genuine and reasonable case for a licence fee.”
It would not be in the public interest to pay such a sum if the ABC were to take the view otherwise.
He added the decision should be appealed to the Federal Court of Australia.
“In his judgment, Justice Langer wrote the ABC had a case of “the most extensive infringement of the commercial rights of a trade mark by the use, manufacture and sale of the Australian brand” that he had seen in his career.”
This case is not about the ABC brand but rather about the use and manufacture of the ‘ABC brand’.
“The ABC brand has been so valuable to the Australian community for more than 200 years that a large part of the value of the brand to the community derives from the use it gives to the ABC.”
Justice Langer also said the ABC did not have any evidence to prove the use could cause harm to anyone other than its users.
“The only evidence the ABC has produced to show the use has caused harm is the evidence of those who have bought or otherwise used the ABC TV brand,” he wrote.
The court said the decision was in line with a ruling in the Federal Circuit Court which held the ABC can be compelled to pay fees for infringement claims that could not otherwise be assessed.
The Australian Media Alliance, the national body representing Australian media companies, welcomed the decision.
“We are pleased the Supreme Courts decision confirms that the Commonwealth can compel the ABC to pay damages for copyright infringement claims,” the group’s president David Lyle said.