Australia: Trade Marks: Choosing and Using Distinctive Brands

Last Updated: 2 March 2011
Article by Alexia Marinos

The Federal Court decision of Yarra Valley Dairy Pty Ltd v Lemnos Foods Pty Ltd [2010] FCA 1367 is a timely reminder of how important it is to choose and use trade marks that are distinctive.

Trade mark applicants are relying more on submitting extensive evidence of use to get their trade marks registered rather than focusing on creating distinctive and original trade marks to market their goods and services.

As a brand owner, it is very important to be aware that just because you use a trade mark in connection with your goods or services, it does not necessarily mean that such use will distinguish your goods and services from those of other traders.


In 1995, a Victorian farm-based cheese maker, Yarra Valley Dairy sold its first marinated cheese product under the brand 'Persian Fetta' in a distinctive paint tin. Five years later, on 21 March 2000, it applied to register the words 'Persian Fetta' as a trade mark for 'dairy products including cheese'.

Yarra Valley Dairy gathered and submitted a substantial amount of evidence to the trade mark examiner to establish its use of the 'Persian Fetta' brand in Australia. It also submitted evidence to establish its reputation in the brand.

The mark was subsequently registered.

Yarra Valley Dairy licensed the use of the 'Persian Fetta' brand to National Foods in 2002. National Foods produced a product known as 'South Cape Persian Fetta' that was sold in various supermarkets including Coles from 2003.

In 2009, Coles decided to replace the South Cape Persian Fetta product with 'Lemnos Persian Marinated Cheese' produced by Lemnos Foods. Yarra Valley sought relief against Lemnos Foods for:

  • contraventions of the former Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), now referred to as the Consumer and Competition Act (Cth);
  • passing off; and
  • trade mark infringement because Lemnos was using the brand 'Persian Fetta' and 'Persian Marinated Cheese' in connection with its cheese products.

Court's Findings

Justice Middleton found that in relation to the contraventions of the former Trade Practices Act and passing off it was unlikely that:

  • consumers would be misled by the packaging of the Lemnos Persian Marinated Cheese goods; and
  • that consumers would associate the Lemnos cheese goods with Yarra Valley cheese products.

In response to the trade mark infringement claim, Lemnos argued in its cross claim that Yarra Valley Dairy's trade mark for 'Persian Fetta' should be cancelled on the basis that it was not capable of distinguishing Yarra Valley Dairy's cheese. Lemnos submitted that the name 'Persian Fetta' would help consumers identify what region the fetta was from.

To be successful, Lemnos had to establish that Yarra Valley Dairy's 'Persian Fetta' trade mark was descriptive and was not capable of distinguishing Yarra Valley Dairy's goods from the goods of other traders.

Justice Middelton considered the following evidence:

  • 'there is a style or quality of fetta which originates from or is associated with the geographical location then known as Persia';
  • other cheese makers wishing to trade in Australia may want to use the word 'Persia' or 'Persian' on or in connection with fetta, either to signify the style of cheese or to indicate that their cheese comes from the region formerly known as Persia and these traders 'would have a legitimate interest in using both the geographical and style name to identify their goods'; and
  • 'there is a likelihood of other traders legitimately wishing to use in Australia the phrase 'Persian Fetta' in relation to cheese products in appropriate circumstance'.

His Honour held that 'it is the Yarra Valley Dairy name and logo on Yarra Valley's Persian Fetta product that does the work of identifying the commercial source or trade origin of Yarra Valley's product and not the words 'Persian Fetta''.

Lemnos was successful in its counter claim for removal of the Persian Fetta word mark and therefore it was not necessary for the court to consider Yarra Valley Dairy's claim for trade mark infringement.

Important Points to Note When Choosing a Brand

For trade mark applicants it is very important:

  • not to equate use of a trade mark with distinctiveness;
  • to choose an original and distinctive brand name to maximise your business;
  • to choose a trade mark that does not by itself, denote the kind, quality, intended purpose or value of the goods or services and that does not contain common surnames or geographical names. Such trade marks should only be filed if they contain other distinctive features such as a logo and other distinctive words;
  • to conduct searches on various public registers such as the Trade Marks Register, ASIC and internet search engines to determine whether your brand name is available for trade mark registration.

If you would like further information about registering your trade marks please contact Alexia Marinos.


Kym Livesley

t (02) 9931 4833


Alexia Marinos

t (02) 9931 4798


To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.