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Radio Adelaide's "strong case" against the ABC

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Radio Adelaide is confident it has a strong legal case to defend its identity against an incursion from the ABC, but an intellectual property expert says the stoush is likely to be complicated.

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Australia’s oldest community radio station registered the trademark 5UV Radio Adelaide more than a decade ago, according to its lawyer Andrea Michaels from NDA Law.

It received just a few minutes notice yesterday that the ABC was about to announce a rebrand of its local station – 891 ABC Adelaide – to ABC Radio Adelaide.

In response yesterday, Michaels fired off a legal letter to the ABC and made a trademark application for the standalone name – Radio Adelaide.

The ABC’s proposed branding – released in a promotional video yesterday – uses only the words “Radio Adelaide”, along with the distinctive ABC “squiggle” logo.

The national broadcaster proposes to rebadge all of its capital city stations in a similar away, such as ABC Radio Melbourne and ABC Radio Sydney.

Michaels said Radio Adelaide had claims to the name as a registered trademark, but also in common law given its long use of the designation.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-17-04-am

The proposed new branding for 891 ABC Adelaide.

The ABC’s head office has gone to ground, with a spokesperson telling InDaily: “The ABC has received correspondence but will not comment further at this stage.”

Local ABC manager Graeme Bennett defended the decision today, but promised to meet with Radio Adelaide chairman Iain Evans to thrash out the issue.

“We don’t see that we are, if you like, cutting the lunch of Radio Adelaide,” he told the 891 ABC breakfast program today. “We have very different audiences.”

However, he said: “I hope that I can talk to Iain about this and come to a position that we both agree is sustainable for us.”

Those discussions are likely to be fiery. 891 breakfast announcer Matt Abraham told Evans on air today that “no-one’s listening to you”.

Evans exploded, accusing the ABC of “arrogance”.

Earlier, he said the station faced a “David and Goliath” fight against the national broadcaster.

“It is simply unbelievable that the ABC with all its media resources were aware that the name Radio Adelaide was already being used by a radio station and decided to hijack our name anyway,” he said.

“It is breathtakingly arrogant of the ABC – a taxpayer funded monolith based in Sydney – to decide to take on a primarily volunteer run community radio station in Adelaide.”

Michaels promised that the Radio Adelaide wouldn’t allow the ABC to adopt the brand without a fight.

“We’re quite confident we have a strong case,” she told InDaily.

“We will take every avenue that’s available to us (to protect the brand).”

She said she had not received a response from the ABC to her letter.

Intellectual property expert Melissa de Zwart, a law professor at the University of Adelaide, said the case was unlikely to be straightforward.

While she had not seen the competing logos when InDaily spoke to her this morning, she said the words “radio” and “Adelaide” were common descriptors which would complicate an argument about a breach of trademark.

“That’s why people rely on their common law rights more, because it give you a lot broader range of things to consider such as how long the brand has been used, or whether people were likely to be confused (between the two users of the name),” de Zwart said.

“There are certainly a lot of issues to be discussed – it’s not straightforward.

“There aren’t any monopolies here – you are talking about questions of degree.”

She said Radio Adelaide might be able to mount an argument based on trade practices law, which prohibits deceptive conduct.

Radio Adelaide was opened in 1972 by the University of Adelaide. Starting life as 5UV on the AM band, it was Australia’s first community radio station and continues to have a strong educational role.

The branding fight comes after a year of upheaval for the station, which is now an independent entity after being offloaded by the University of Adelaide. The station is now co-located with another community station, Fresh 92.7, after the building containing its North Terrace studios was demolished.

 

 

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