AMI Insurance Unable To Trademark “My Insurance” In New Zealand

By Joseph Mandour on November 16, 2011

new_zealand_flag-thumb-200x150-30156 California – AMI Insurance recently lost its fight to maintain trademark protection for New Zealand trademarks such as “My Insurance” and 14 other insurance terms preceded by “My.”

Last year the trademarks were approved by the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. However, the trademark approval was recently appealed by a united front of competing New Zealand insurance companies including AA Insurance, IAG New Zealand, Tower Insurance, and Vero Insurance.

As in the United States, trademarks in New Zealand must be distinctive and non-generic. In addition, trademarks must not create a likelihood of customer confusion.
In this case, AMI’s competitors claimed in their joint appeal that the terms were too generic to the insurance industry to receive protection, as all 15 of the trademarks were common insurance terms with the word ‘My’ preceding them. Appellants also claimed that the terms were not distinctive and that commercial use of the trademarks could lead to customer confusion.

In its defense, AMI argued that the proposed trademarks were a clever way for customers and the insurance company to communicate about their insurance. AMI also argued that the way in which it used the trademarks would not interfere with other insurance companies’ use of the terms.

The New Zealand High Court, ruling that the trademarks were not eligible for protection, noted that other trademark holders had successfully obtained trademark protection for similar “My” terms. For example, Bank of New Zealand successfully obtained protection for “My Money” and Sky Television registered “My Sky.” However, the court explained that those terms were not simply generic product names such as the “My” marks AMI pursued. The court held that AMI’s proposed trademarks such as “My Car,” “My Insurance,” and “My House Insurance”were too generic to be eligible for protection.

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