A Rose by Any Other Name….

…May violate trademark. In the digital age, ideas are being shared faster than ever before. We are sometimes not even purposely collaborating with other sources and ideas because of our exposure to it. In order to keep your ideas protected, it is also important to have a name that stands out as unique so that it can be trademarked. In business, this can get messy.

How much protection does a trademark provide in the internet age? That is the question facing Martin Nally, the CEO of human resources consultancy hranywhere, who is in dispute with Commonwealth Bank. He believes the bank has infringed his trademark – his company’s name – and that the bank’s slow response to the dispute is damaging his business.

Nally, who is a CBA customer and shareholder, says the bank has not shown enough respect for his concerns. “Their catch-cry is that we are the bank that ‘can’,” he says. “I think they have taken this way too far and it is the bank that ‘can’ do anything it likes.”

Nally’s problems began in late June, when his business started to get calls from Commonwealth Bank employees. “We received about a dozen calls from [CBA] employees with HR issues that needed resolving,” Nally says.

Nally discovered that the CBA had recently launched an internal human resources portal, called myHRAnywhere. The similarity to his trademarked trading name, hranywhere, resulted in calls from confused CBA employees.

The bank’s service has its own domain name – myhranywhere.com.au – which leads to a sign-in page with minimal information. The callers told Nally the bank emailed them with instructions to use myHRAnywhere for HR problems. The bank employs 51,000 people.

Nally believes his business is being damaged by the confusion. He says 80 per cent of his business comes from web search inquiries, of which about half convert to customers, and argues confusion and failed searches will deter potential clients. He estimates about 20 per cent of searchers are deterred, causing his revenue to fall by 10 per cent and is concerned that his site could fall down the rankings in organic search results.

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