On Monday, Australian legal publication Lawyerly reported that Sportsbet, a division of UK-listed gambling operator Paddy Power Betfair, has filed a lawsuit alleging that Crownbet was infringing on Sportsbet’s trademark by trying to trademark the Sportingbet name.
Crownbet, which was acquired by Canadian online gambling giant The Stars Group in February, announced earlier this month that it planned to rebrand its expanded operations under the currently dormant Sportingbet brand. Crownbet assumed ownership of the Sportingbet brand after acquiring the Aussie operations of UK bookmaker William Hill in March.
In May, Crownbet filed an application to trademark Sportingbet and this month applied to register the name Sportingbet Pty Ltd with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Sportsbet reportedly sent Crownbet a letter demanding the withdrawal of the application and requesting that Crownbet ditch its Sportingbet rebranding efforts. Crownbet’s solicitors rejected Sportsbet’s demands and the fight was officially on.
On June 21, Sportsbet filed a statement of claims arguing that the Sportsbet and Sportingbet marks were substantially similar and that consumers would mistake Sportingbet as being connected in some way with Sportsbet’s operations, which have had a presence in Australia since 1991 and online since 2003.
William Hill Australia retired the Sportingbet brand in 2015 after acquiring the company two years earlier. Sportsbet’s attorneys will likely point out that when the brand was retired, Ralph Topping, the then-CEO of William Hill, justified the decision based on his belief that consumers were likely to confuse Sportingbet with Sportsbet.
Sportsbet has asked Justice Barry Beach for temporary and permanent injunctions against Crownbet using the Sportingbet mark, plus damages and costs. A federal court hearing on the brouhaha has been scheduled for July 25.
It’s perhaps worth noting that Crownbet’s biggest rival for acquiring the William Hill Australia assets was Sportsbet. So it’s unclear how much of the trademark lawsuit is legitimate concern over brand confusion among Aussie sports bettors versus a vengeful ‘from hell’s heart I stab at thee’ desire to sandbag a rival’s rebranding efforts.