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It is my limited understanding that when a trademark is registered - It is only country specific.

However in this case an Australian cafe was sued by a French culinary school due to a similar name which they state could lead to 'brand confusion' and thus infringed on their trademark. The Culinary School won.

Although I'm not sure if the cafe was simply ignorant and didn't register their trademark and the school simply jumped on that opportunity and therefore forced a win - Outside of that kind of scenario (again with my limited knowledge). I don't see how a foreign entity could pursue that?

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A trademark registration does indeed protect a mark only in the courtly where it is registered. However, protection is not limited to businesses headquartered in the country of registration. Firms doing business internationally often register a trademark in multiple countries, sometimes very many countries. It is possible that "Le Cordon Bleu" was registered in Australia. (Indeed it turns out to be so registered, see below.)

Also, in some countries a trademark can be protected to a degree merely by use, without any registration. That is true in the US. I have not yet checked if it is true in Australia. If the plaintiff's mark was in actual use in Australia, that might be enough to get them a favorable trademark decision there. It will be Australian law that will be relevant here, not really international law.

It seems that the school "Le Cordon Bleu" objected to a restaurant called called "Gordon Bleu". That sounds to me similar enough that I think a US court might well award damages and/or issue an injunction, depending on the detailed facts, and the dates of usage (first usage usually wins).

The news story does not give the formal name of the case. Without the opinion or other case documents I cannot tell just what happened or on what legal basis in this specific case. I will search and update this answer if I find relevant information.

A search reveals that Le Cordon Bleu International B.V. owns several registrations in Australia to the trademark "Le Cordon Bleu" including:

  • # 429369 for Class 8: Hand tools and implements (hand operated); cutlery, forks and spoons; side arms; razors
  • # 429371 for Class 38: Communication; press agencies, radio, telegraph and telephone communications; teleprinting; transmission of messages and telegram
  • # 429377 for Class 25: Clothing, footwear, headgear
  • #429378 for Class 24: Textiles and textile goods, not included in other classes; bed and table covers
  • # 429379 for Class 21: Household or kitchen utensils and containers ...
  • # 429380 for Class 16: Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matters; bookbinding materials; photographs, stationery ...
  • # 429381 for Class 9: Scientific, nautical, surveying, electric, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments ...
  • # 485577 for a logo to be used on Class 29: Fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh poultry and fresh game; ...
  • # 485579 for the same logo to be used on Class 31: Agricultural, horticultural and forestry products and grains
  • # 485580 for the same logo to be used on Class 32: Mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks;...

and some 50 other registered marks for use of the words 'Le Cordon Bleu", the logo, or variants of these on various classes of goods and services. Most of these Australian trademark registrations seem to date from 1985 and are currently in force.

Thus there was nothing unusual in this case. A firm with a trademark (in fact 60 trade marks) registered in Australia for over 35 years objected to use in a related category of a confusingly similar mark, that seems to have been intended to play off the registered mark. This sounds like a routine trademark enforcement action.

Also. according to the Wikipedia article "Australian trade mark law" Australia supports "common-law use-based rights" as well as statutory rights under the Trade Marks Act 1995 (and previous acts). This means that in Australia, as in the US, a degree of protection can be obtained through use alone (in Australia), even without registration.

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  • With respect to the last comment "Aus supports common law use-based rights". If 'Le Cordon Bleu' started using their trademark in France in 1985...but hadn't at all registered in Aus and the Cafe were to use the same name in 1990 unregistered. Who would the use-based rights go to? Are they local only or also take into account global standings? Similarly, if the Cafe did register it in Aus 1990. What then?
    – SheerKahn
    Mar 30 at 11:08
  • @SheerKahn To answer that quotation would take a review of Australian trademark law, and probably Australian trademark case law. I can't answer offhand. It is also, in my view, beyond the scope of this particular question, since the school did in fact register, and the decision (whose text I have not found, it may not even be online) was presumably based on that registration. (Also a search shows no trademark for "Gordon Bleu" but I don't know if it was never registered or was removed from the register by the decision.) I think this would make a good additional linked question. Mar 30 at 15:50

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