1 September 2020TrademarksMuireann Bolger

Australian banks bar blockchain company from using trademark

In a victory for the  Reserve Bank of Australia, a court today blocked a US blockchain company  Ripple from using a trademark for advertising its payments platform in the country.

The  New Payments Platform Australia (NPPA), a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and 13 domestic banks, sued Ripple on 20 August at the  Federal Court of Australia for infringing the trademark, ‘PayID’.

The NPPA processes more than one million payments a week in Australia under the brand name ‘Pay ID’, which it registered in March 2017. Ripple, which provides the XRP cryptocurrency, launched its payments service, also called ‘Pay ID’, in Australia in June.

According to the filing, the NPPA alleged that the US company copied its trademark to offer closely related services in Australia.

“Ripple’s service is clearly offered under a mark that is substantially identical with or deceptively similar to the NPPA PayID registered trademark and in relation to the same or similar services,” said NPPA in its lawsuit.

The banks, which include  ANZ,  Westpac and  NAB, said that the disputed actions “constitute misleading and deceptive behaviour”, under  Australian Consumer Law and the  Australian Securities and Investment Commissions Act.

The NPPA said the service could “irrevocably damage” its brand, and alleged that Ripple Lab’s mark may also be used to facilitate illegal activities “such as money laundering, terrorism financing and human rights abuse”.

Last week, Ripple provisionally agreed to halt its online payments service from Australia from 28 August, in an initial hearing at the country’s federal court.

The court, however, today agreed with the NPPA that it should additionally impose an order  preventing the blockchain company from using the trademark.

It stated that: “The use by Ripple of the PayID word as a trademark in Australia has the potential to cause substantial confusion amongst Australian consumers in the sense that those consumers would assume the underlying service was that provided by NPPA through the NPP infrastructure.”

It concluded that: “Ripple’s service is not as safe as that provided by the NPPA” and that consumers could be “adversely affected”.

The court then ruled that Ripple should not advertise, promote, or offer to provide electronic payment services in Australia under the trademark, ‘PayID’.

Ripple’s XRP digital currency is  the world’s third largest, with a market capitalisation of $12.25 billion.

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