Brand stoush success 'win for all co-operatives'

NZACU wins over The Co-operative Bank.

The New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU) says its court win over The Cooperative Bank is "a win for all co-operatives."

The bank went to the High Court at Auckland earlier this month in protest at NZ Credit Unions' attempt to rebrand to Co-Op Money.

But Justice Raynor Asher had no sympathy for The Co-operative Bank, which spent in excess of $8 million when it rebranded from PSIS.

The Co-operative Bank had asked for a halt to the rebrand, arguing the association was passing off and had breached the Fair Trading Act. It also disputed its trademarks.

While the judge said the bank showed it had established goodwill in the brand, the word co-operative was descriptive.

“In this case The Co-operative Bank has not shown a seriously arguable case that it has developed a sufficient reputation in its name and the use of the word Cooperative so in that area of financial services the word is exclusively associated with [it].”

The judge said just because there could be some initial confusion did not mean customers would be misled.

“The decision to acquire a financial service, such as taking out a savings account or a loan, is not a decision taken lightly, and parties who do so can be expected to have spent some time reflecting on such a decision.”

“In my view, given the obviously descriptive nature of the word and the lack of similarity in the names, there is very little risk of a customer being misled,” the judge says.

NZACU chief executive Henry Lynch released a statement saying the bank does not have a monopoly on the words "co-operative" or "co-op", and says it was determined to defend the words for all New Zealand co-operatives.

RAW DATA: Judgment (PDF)

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