A NSW online media start-up has been hit by legal action taken by a similarly named rival, New York-based firm The Business Insider, which claims the Australian enterprise is guilty of “misleading and deceptive” conduct by using the moniker.
Via a Brisbane-based lawyer, The Business Insider Inc has launched proceedings in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia against Business Insider Pty Ltd.
The latter business, launched in 2011, operates two websites focused on regional NSW small businesses – the Central Coast Business Insider and the Hunter Business Insider.
The company also had a general website, businessinsider.net, but took this down following the legal action to emphasise the local nature of its operation.
New York-based The Business Insider, created in 2009 by entrepreneur Henry Blodget, says it has 23 million unique visitors a month and now has substantial interests in Australia.
Allure Media, a subsidiary of Fairfax Media, has the rights to publish a local version The Business Insider. Chris Janz, managing director of Allure Media, tells StartupSmart: “We’re not a party to the proceedings so cannot comment.”
However, Mark Cleary, who co-founded the Australian version of Business Insider with Bob Fitzgerald and Dean Collins, claims that Fairfax’s involvement is crucial in the court case, even though the media company isn’t behind the legal action.
“To me, this smacks of Fairfax getting the rights to Business Insider and New York saying ‘we’ve got these turkeys up on the central coast, let’s get rid of them.’ A bit of housekeeping, if you like,” he tells StartupSmart.
“It’s a peculiar one because there has to be a victim for misleading conduct. I’m not sure that big advertisers are getting confused between New York and Gosford. My first reaction to this was ‘have you got us confused with someone else?’”
“As far as I’m aware, there are sites called Business Insider in the UK and WA. Our advice is that this is such a common term that there can’t be a case.”
“We’ve gone back to the sites to emphasise the local nature of them. Logically that should be enough, but legally, who knows. We don’t feel there’s misrepresentation.”
Cleary says that there’s a court date set for the end of February, where the New York Business Insider will seek damages.
“It’s all been at arm’s length really, via a solicitor, whereby I’d probably prefer someone just calling me up for a chat over coffee over this. They’ve suggested damages. If they want to share some of our losses to date, they’d be very welcome.”