To VB or not to VB - that is the trademark question
Ask any Aussie what the letters VB mean and chances are they would not think of former Spice Girl warbler Victoria Beckham.
However in her world Victoria Beckham seems to think Australians would automatically associate the letters VB with her name. So much so she’s unleashed the legal dogs on a Sydney skincare company that’s dared to use the letters VB in its trade marks.
Sydney company VB Skinlab moved to register two trade marks which appeared in a trademark journal in August 2018.
But Victoria Beckham has countered with the 46-year-old pop star and fashion designer claiming the VB letters "would be likely to deceive or cause confusion" in Australia because her fashion and cosmetics products also use the letters VB.
Beckham argued she had been using her mark in Australia since September 2016, including in an Estee Lauder cosmetics range.
She further contended the Sydney company's website featured an image of "a slim brunette with long hair" similar to her own image.
Beckham's legal team said she promoted her businesses through her substantial social media presence, with 12.8 million followers on Twitter and 24.9 million on Instagram.
But Ms Beckham clearly needs to read up on iconic Australiana before claiming ownership of those letters.
Most Australians think beer, not Victoria Beckham, when the letters VB are mentioned.
Ms Beckham’s protestations failed to move IP Australia which found there were "clear differences" in the trademarks. The stoush has now made its way to Federal Circuit Court where the Beckham team has lodged an appeal against IP Australia’s decision.
IP Australia had also found despite her "significant fame", Ms Beckham had only acquired "at best a very limited reputation in Australia for cosmetic products" in the 18-months preceding the trademark battle.
We are not acting for any parties in the matter, but trade mark lawyers are watching proceedings closely with plenty of popcorn to hand.
Victoria Beckham would, for misleading and deceptive conduct, have to establish that people think of her when they hear those letters. I don’t. And I don’t think other Aussies would either.
For trade mark infringement she has to prove she has some ownership over those letters and the words VB Skinlab are at least deceptively similar. She may not realise it that the VB brand in Australia dates back to the 1850s, which is just a little bit earlier than Ms Beckham’s time with the Spice Girls.
It’s significant that the makers of VB – the beer- have not taken any legal action against VB the cosmetics business. Cynics might think Ms Beckham just wants to Spice up her profile.