It was the biggest snowball fight of them all, yet it was waged without so much as a snowflake in sight. For years a legal battle has raged over ownership of the word “Thredbo”, the popular NSW ski destination currently enjoying record dumps.
The case was brought by Kosciuszko Thredbo, which holds the lease for the areas of Thredbo Village and Thredbo Resort, and Thredbo Resort Centre, which manages reservations for accommodation at Thredbo. They took Thredbonet, a small company that manages accommodation, to court over its use of the word.
The companies, represented by a large, multinational law firm, alleged that “Thredbo” had taken on a secondary meaning, aside from the name of a location. The word Thredbo, they argued, was now synonymous with their businesses. Thredbo, it was said, was “more than a place”, and was instead a “complete branded entity”.
The companies likened themselves to Disneyland, saying the lease arrangements in place put them in a “unique position of control over the resort”.
They sought to restrain Thredbonet from using the word in various domain names, company and business names, and on its website.
Thredbonet, by using the name, was allegedly engaging in “misleading or deceptive conduct by using the name to promote their business”.
The companies argued that was a breach of consumer law, and accused Thredbonet of trying to pass its business off for their own.
The companies lost their first court case in the Federal Court in June last year, but appealed. The full court of the Federal Court handed down its decision on the appeal on Monday, finding against Kosciuszko Thredbo and the Thredbo Resort Centre.
The court found the word “Thredbo” to be a geographical name, and said the appellants were not entitled to a monopoly over its use. It cleared Thredbonet of misleading and deceptive conduct.
The law firm representing Thredbonet, Hazan Hollander, welcomed the judgment, describing the case as a David and Goliath-type battle. Senior lawyer Yves Hazan said the judgment represented an “emphatic win”.
“The case is a good example of a large corporation failing to bully a smaller company with massive litigation.”
Law firm King & Wood Mallesons, which represented Kosciuszko Thredbo and the Thredbo Resort Centre, declined to comment.