A Chilly Trade Mark Dispute in Our Backyard

March 5, 2013 Published by

Sydney’s favourite gelato shop, Gelato Messina, recently found itself in a sticky and not-so-sweet trade mark dispute.  Last week Gelato Messina created the ‘Gaytime’ flavour as a tribute to both the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and everybody’s favourite childhood ice-cream (in case you were hungry wondering, the flavour consisted of layers of caramel and milk gelato with chocolate coated biscuit bits).

Gelato Messina

But alas, this ice-cream made Unilever scream, presumably because Unilever did not like Gelato Messina’s use of their ‘Gaytime’ trade mark.

Gelato Messina was shown the cold shoulder and told in no uncertain terms to cease and desist from using the ‘Gaytime’ name. No doubt hoping all their troubles would just melt away, Gelato Messina promptly changed the sweet treat’s name to ‘the flavour formerly known as Gaytime’.

The situation, however, remained frosty. Unilever demanded that Gelato Messina change the name again, setting a 5pm deadline. Harnessing the power of social media, Gelato Messina appealed to its loyal fans on Facebook to rename the ice-cream.

Just in a lick of time, a gelato fan came up with the final name, which aptly sums up this trade mark dispute – UNILEAVE US ALONE.

Brands with a registered trade mark are entitled to protect their rights, and if Gelato Messina had not changed their flavour’s name, they may have found themselves involved in legal proceedings. However, from a PR perspective, brands may wish to take a more chilled approach to trade mark infringement. Asserting strict legal rights might not always be the best course of action to take.

Author’s note: some gelato sampling research was conducted during the writing of this blog post.

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