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Cisco loses logo lawsuit against WiFi inventor boffinhaus

CSIRO's stylised Australia deemed distinct from Borg's bridge badge

By Simon Sharwood, 10 Apr 2015

Cisco's suffered a legal reversal in Australia, where the nation's Trade Marks Office has ruled the logo of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is not an attempt to imitate or cash in on the Borg's bridge badge.

CSIRO's logo is supposed to be a stylised map of Australia. Cisco's reimagining of the Golden Gate bridge and/or an graph is well known. Here they are side by side.

Cisco and CSIRO logos

Cisco objected to the CSIRO's application to trademark its logo. The Borg's beef seems to have been that the colours and wave design in both logos are similar and therefore perhaps confusing to punters. That CSIRO's desire to have its logo classified as pertaining to software and “telecommunications” didn't help either.

CSIRO has form in the latter field: astronomers there did the basic work that led to the creation of WiFi and the organisation has scooped hundreds of millions in patent royalties from technology companies, including Cisco. The case therefore has an ironic element, as Cisco makes millions from WiFi kit every year.

Happily for CSIRO, the action failed. Australia's Trade Marks Office felt that, at least in Australia, the CSIRO logo screams “SCIENCE” to the populace and the Cisco logo is associated with networking kit. That a Cisco-branded phone was to be found in the hearing room used for the case didn't help the networking company's case.

Cisco also failed to show the CSIRO logo was deceptively similar, or that the ordinary man on the Sydney Harbour Bridge omnibus would confuse the two. The Borg was therefore told to pay CSIRO's costs, and that appears to be the end of the matter.

Tech giants like suing Australian companies about their logos: Apple took issue with the local tentacle of Woolworths back in 2009. ®

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