Protecting trademarks for hands on reptiles shows
As you all know, we at Snakebusters do Australia’s best reptile shows and reptile education.
In fact it’s even official.
A few years back the Victorian government department, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) decided to put a raft of regulations up to cost our company tens of thousands of dollars in “compliance costs” and to also reduce the standards of our live reptile shows.
When we complained, the department protested (in writing) that our shows were way better than the rest, including those of Melbourne Zoo and that we had in their words an “unfair competitive advantage”.
This line they repeated often, including at VCAT proceedings at end 2008.
The initial target of their claims in 2007 and 2008 was our venomoid snakes, the ones that are surgically devenomized snakes, which don’t have to be attacked with sticks when handled and also are no risk to either handler or public.
Yes, we could hand the world’s deadliest snakes to anyone and risk free!
It makes diving in a shark cage look tame by comparison
Of course the idea that our company should lower our standards to let substandard operators flourish was preposterous to myself and my staff, and eventually the DSE realized they may have had problems arguing with this line alone, so they widened the attack on Snakebusters.
Both before, during and after the VCAT proceedings that we initiated, the attack was widened to become a full-frontal collatoral attack on Raymond Hoser and Snakebusters shows.
Everything about us was demonized and attacked.
In our defence of venomoids and the DSE’s new rules we ran our case that “Raymond Hoser is a dedicated conservationist who has devoted his life to wildlife conservation, written brilliant books and scientific papers, does hugely popular wildlife shows, and even kids reptile parties, where he lets people handle the animals. His venomoids are yet another part of his leading work, where he puts public safety and aninmal welfare first and this should be emulated by others and not stopped by those who match his standards”.
We had hoped that the DSE and those supporting them would act ethically and concede that my science papers and books had merit and that the thousands of references from school principals and the like carried some sort of weight.
But instead, the DSE side ran their case from a totally opposite position.
Rather than claiming our shows were fantastic and I knew what I was talking about, they ran their case at VCAT along the lines that everything I had published was meaningless and had no status. Yes, they said 30 years of research work and hundreds of scientific papers counted for nothing. They falsely claimed the venomoids regrew venom (they don’t), calling in an “expert” witness in the form of Peter Mirtschin of “Venom Supplies” in South Australia to claim same, (he has since admitted in writing he had lied on oath), and the DSE tried to demonize every aspect of our reptile shows.
Ron Waters a senior bureaucrat of DSE denounced the fact we let kids handle the animals in our Melbourne reptile shows. Our competitors all supported the Ron Waters position, with the notable exception of one other demonstrator, Federico Rossignolli, who gave total support for our position (but was fraudulently misrepresented by Coghlan in her judgement as being opposed to us).
Ron Waters said “hands off” was better and I should start using a “whiteboard” to explain to kids what a reptile felt like.
Even the VCAT judge, Anne Coghlan, biased against us from the outset eventually ruled our reptile displays were a circius!
Coghlan’s statements have since discredited in the wake of the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009, the fire event she said would never happen and just months earlier she had denounced me as delusional for asserting that as a result of DSE’s actions (or lack of them), dozens of Victorians could die from bushfires, because DSE was wasting time attacking me instead of looking after public safety.
Anyway, Coghlan’s ridiculous and adverse statements against our shows, were widely posted by inexperienced rivals to further demonize our hands on reptile shows and pretty much anything else relevant to us.
Relying on the fact that all our competitors had denounced the fact we did hands on with reptiles and allowed people to hold the animals, we went and registed the trademark, “hands on reptiles”.
Normally, such a phrase wouldn’t be registerable at the trademarks office, on the basis that “other traders may wish to use the phrase or words similar”, but because we were able to show the trademarks office that not only didn’t other wildlife demonstrators want to use the words, but that they were violently opposed to them, we managed to register the trademark, as well as a series of similar phrases.
Noting also that at the start, the VCAT case was about lowering our standards because everyone else said we were “the best’ at what we did, we also registered the trademark, “Australia’s best reptiles”.
Again we were able to register the trademark, not because we said we were the best (you see that’s called “puffery”), but rather because everyone else did as well!
Now for most of the last 2 years, other reptile demonstrators have continued to demonize our hands on reptile shows and everything else about us, which I suppose is their legal right. However parents, teachers and the like all prefer our hands on reptiles shows to the “hands off” approach of everyone else.
We treat reptiles nice, the others all demonize them and over-emphasize alleged dangers of even harmless species of reptile.
Recall, even Anne Coghlan at VCAT ruled that Carpet Pythons are a deadly venomous species of snake … yes you can get this from the official VCAT recording of the hearing!
Yes, she even condemned me for not rushing people to hospital if bitten by Carpet Snakes.
My view is that the risk of death from Golden Staf contracted in hospital is greater! … or perhaps a car crash on the way to the hospital!
Not surprisingly, and in spite of the unprecedented attacks on our business by less experienced competitors and at their behest the Victorian government, our business has boomed to become busier than ever!
School teachers and the general public are not totally stupid and they can see what’s better educational value for the kids. They wote with their feet and want Snakebusters hands on reptiles shows rather than the hands off alternatives found elsewhere.
Now what has emerged is that some of the individuals and companies that have been busy demonizing our hands on reptiles shows, have now begun illegally using our trademarks to promote their own ailing businesses.
“Roaming Reptiles”, a Geelong-based outfit owned by Tracy Sandstrom had been condemning us and denouncing both our hands on reptiles as kids reptile parties and our venomoids (to her potential customers), was recently sprung using our “hands on reptiles” trademark. We stopped her.
Her advert in ‘Melbourne’s Child” has now been changed to remove the trademark breach.
Another of our most vocal critics, Jonno Lucas of “Educational Reptile Displays” has used internet forum “Aussie Pythons and Snakes” for two years to attack us at every opportunity, so I was gobsmacked to find out he was even masquerading as myself (calling himself “the snake man”) to try to get business in Queensland by using our recognised trademark that’s been registered for years.
Yes, we’ve sent him a cease and desist letter.
By the way, trademark breaches aren’t just illegal under trademarks laws. They are also illegal under the Trade Practices Act and State Equivalents, making it a serious criminal offence! This means infringers can be sued by either the trademark owner or the government regulators. See the recent judgement of Kennards Hire Versus Caruso for an example of what I mean!
In fact in the last 3 months we’ve had to send “cease and desist” letters to stop about 20 cases of inexperienced imitators bootlegging our various trademarks, including, Snakeman, Snakebusters, hands on reptiles, variants and others.
Most complied straight away, a few played hard ball and the last ones came into line after the lawyers got involved.
The lack of ethics of fly-by-night operators who seek one minute to condemn what we do and then in the next instant try to bootleg us, staggers me.
However having recently got cash payouts from three bootleggers of our IP, I can issue a warning to all others.
If anyone can find you bootlegging us, we will as well, and we will protect our lawful rights, our trademarks and all our intellectual property.
After thirty years of striving for perfection, myself and my reptile demonstration business Snakebusters have been officially recognised as “Australia’s best reptiles” for good reason and we intend keeping it that way.
All the best from the Australian snake man Raymond Hoser