Rex has failed in its cheeky court bid to claim ownership of the “Economy X” brand from Virgin Australia.
The dispute stemmed from Rex’s leasing of old Virgin Australia Boeing 737 jets without making changes to the interior cabins. It is understood that Virgin Australia asked Rex to remove the Economy X branding on seats but Rex refused, claiming that Virgin had not formally trademarked the term.
Rex then applied to the Registrar of Trade Marks to claiming ownership of Economy X. Virgin opposed the application, saying that it had created the brand in 2016 and launched it in marketing and sales from February 2017.
Rex disputed Virgin’s claim, saying it was a “description of class of service, or seat class.”
“Evidence is provided in support of this view, including a website dated 2016, showing that Qantas uses the letter ‘X’ as the class code for flight rewards/award bookings in economy class,” said the ruling by Registrar of Trade Marks’ delegate Nicholas Butson.
Rex also said that even if the brand had been trademarked by Virgin Australia, it was unregistered and the intellectual property rights were vague following the airline’s change of ownership in 2020.
However, Butson’s ruling said that a trademark did not necessarily have to be registered to establish ownership. Instead, he said that a trademark could be established through “authorship and use of a trademark.”
“This ground does not require (Virgin Australia) to establish that it is the owner, merely that there is an earlier claim to ownership based on use by someone other than the (Rex),” wrote Mr Butson.
He found that Virgin Australia provided sufficient evidence that it created Economy X and used it before Rex. Costs were awarded against Rex in the matter.
A Rex spokesman declined to comment on the ruling other than to point out the airline had adopted the term “Rextra” seating for the rows previously designated Economy X.
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