SXSW acts to prevent Labor Party from using similarly titled event

Canberra’s Labor Party has been warned of a trademark breach, after attempting to name an upcoming festival ‘South by Southeast,’ modelled off well known Texas-based festival South by Southwest (SXSW).SXSW logo2

The Canberra festival, which aimed to join musicians, artists and innovators from across the Australian Capital Territory was forced to change its name after being directly contacted by SXSW’s Australian representative, Phil Tripp.

Tripp said he had to take action immediately when he was notified of the breach in order to retain the trademark.

“Because we have trademark legislation in Australia, and many other countries, whenever the use of South by South West or any of its derivatives are used, the internet tells us.”

“I had to immediately get in touch because the trademark law requires that you take immediate action to protect your trademark.”

Tripp said the process for removal of the festival name was straight-forward.

“They were wonderful. They were very contrite. They were like ‘oh we didn’t know’ and they didn’t because obviously somebody hadn’t thought ‘gee I wander if somebody owns this name’. They had gone from a working title to this sounds good let’s use it”, he said.

“It was worked out within a few hours. They not only ripped back their press release off their site, their publicist called any media that had been contacted.”

SXSW’s trademark prevents others from using the brand’s name, mark or logo, or any variations, to avoid similarly named festivals.

“With South by South West, the law requires that if you own a trademark, you must defend that trademark in order to retain it and you need to do that immediately upon notification of any kind of infringement.”

“We don’t want to have some event called South by South West in Australia, because it’s not us. We don’t plan to hold an event, we don’t plan to align ourselves with an event. Every major state government has come to ask and said, ‘wouldn’t you like to enter a strategic alliance with us and have your event South by South by South down in Australia?'”

“We don’t want to cheapen our brand,” he said.

Tripp, who has managed South by Southwest Conference and Festivals for more than fifteen years said this isn’t the first time that trademark legislation has been breached. However he added that the SXSW name and logo can be used, if it is licensed.

“I’ve had a couple of companies here in Australia, take the South by South West logo off the internet, and whack it on their website as a promotion for a giveaway.”

“That’s our logo. That’s like you putting a Mercedes medal bracket on your Ford or on your Holden. It doesn’t belong there,” he said.

“We do license it, we do allow the use of South by South West but you are going to have to pay a lot of money.”

However Tripp pointed out companies lack of understanding of trademark and copyright legislation is the underlying issue.

“I think a lot of people do not understand the law. And trademark and copyright are both excellent examples of laws that exist to protect creators, and most creators do not know.”


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