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ThredboTM the start of a slippery slope?

The name Thredbo might well conjure images of schussing the snowfields and hot chocolates in the ski lodge.

Does that mean the place name can be trademarked by a private company?

The issue has come to light in the lengthy battle between snowfields operator Kosciuszko Thredbo, the trademark applicant, and minnow accommodation provider Thredbonet.

In July, Kosciuszko Thredbo, owned by the $1.5 billion entertainment group Amalgamated Holdings, lost its two-year legal battle against Thredbonet. The Federal Court ruled the self-described ''Disneyland'' of the Snowy Mountains was not entitled to the exclusive use of the name.

Kosciuszko Thredbo, which operates a resort, ski school, leisure centre and a slew of other services, failed to prove Thredbonet's use of the geographic term in its online marketing would mislead consumers.

But Kosciuszko Thredbo is so convinced ''Thredbo'' has now taken on a secondary meaning to signify a ''complete branded entity'' it has filed a trademark application for the name.


This has infuriated Thredbonet, which launched a fresh appeal in the Federal Court last week to halt the registrar from finalising the request, saying it was contrary to law.

Thredbonet managing director Glenn Smith said: ''We're trying to make it a fair trading community. No one should have the right to control the use of a geographical word that describes where someone's house is or business is.''

Trademark law is no stranger to conflict. Even coffee manufacturers have gone hammer and tongs over seemingly obscure claims.

In 1996 and 2000, Cantarella, vendor of Al Pacino-spruiked Vittoria coffee, successfully trademarked the Italian words oro, meaning ''gold'', and cinque stelle, meaning ''five stars''.

It lost the rights when the Federal Court last year overturned Cantarella's previously successful lawsuit against coffee importer Modena, which in late 2010 began supplying Molinari Oro and Cinque Stelle coffee blends.

In the High Court on Tuesday, Tony Bannon, SC, argued Cantarella should be allowed to keep its commercial stranglehold on the terms.

Cantarella has sold nearly 3.6 tonnes of Oro-branded coffee between 2000 and 2011, equivalent to 511 million cups.

Modena wants the terms to be struck off the register because traders have legitimate uses for the descriptive words.

A High Court spokesman said the decision would be delivered in two to three months.

University of NSW intellectual property expert Michael Handler said there was a strong argument for allowing competitors to make accurate use of descriptive language.

''I think consumers would benefit as a result,'' Associate Professor Handler said. ''Consumers would be given more accurate information - about the description of products or the geographic locations - and traders that choose to adopt a descriptive term in the first place won't be given too much power.''