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Battle to get the naming right

A WA-BASED plumbing equipment supplier has won an epic legal battle against US industrial giant General Electric.

Galvin Engineering decided to change its logo from the red “G” it has had for much of its 60-year existence to a “G” and stylised “E” on a blue background and register the new design in 1995.

Just as the trademark registration process was concluding in 1997, General Electric lodged an objection.

General Electric claimed Galvin’s mark was substantially similar to its own; that it was similar to its trademark that had acquired a reputation in Australia; and that Galvin was not the owner of the trademark.

Australian Trade Marks Office hearing officer Terry Williams ruled in December that General Electric had failed to prove its case on all three counts and that the trademark be registered.

However, General Electric lodged an appeal against Mr Williams’ decision.

Just as Galvin was preparing for the Federal Court battle, General Electric’s Australian legal representative made contact and asked to settle out of court.

The settlement included a cash payout to Galvin. In return, the WA company had to agree to use its logo in preference of the letters GE and to only use those letters when absolutely necessary or closely related to its full name.

Galvin Engineering marketing director Chris Galvin said the battle had cost his company tens of thousands of dollars.

“We had to appoint a Sydney-based barrister to represent us and fly him to Canberra for the hearings,” he said.

“The whole way through we were trying to negotiate our way out but General Electric wanted us to drop GE completely.

“To have done that would have required us to change our patents and stationery and would have cost us about $1 million.”

Clayton Utz senior associate intellectual property Paul Mallon, who was involved with the case, said WA businesses needed to make sure their trademarks were registered.

General Electric was trying to preserve its trademark in every jurisdiction as much as it could,” Mr Mallon said. “It has teams of people looking out for anything that could be a threat.”

A General Electric spokesman said the company’s brand was a valuable asset that it was keen to protect.

“It is unfortunate that the abbreviation of the Galvin Engineering name is also GE and we are pleased we have agreed an outcome which recognises the legitimate interests of both parties,” he said.

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