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Australian Winnebago to Appeal Ban of Use of Trademark

A Knott Investments Pty unit said it will appeal an Australian court ruling last month barring the company from using the Winnebago name associated with the U.S. maker of motor homes.

“Ours is a family-owned business that has been trading as Winnebago since we first acquired the business name in Australia in 1978,” Ben Binns, director of Knott’s Winnebago (Australia) unit, said in an e-mail today. “We truly believed we were able to use the Winnebago name in Australia given the written agreement we had.”

Winnebago Industries Inc., the U.S. maker of motor homes, won a July 30 court order prohibiting Knott from using the Winnebago name in Australia, as it has been doing for at least 30 years. Federal Court of Australia Justice Lindsay Foster said at the time that Knott founder Bruce Binns “intentionally hijacked” the Winnebago name to prevent the U.S. company from entering the Australian market.

Binns founded Emu Plains, New South Wales-based Knott in 1967 as a holding company that acquired properties for recreational vehicle factories in Australia. The manufacturing company, Freeway Camper Co., failed and was liquidated in 1977, Foster wrote.

Knott then began manufacturing recreational vehicles and selling them under the Winnebago name, either in 1978 according to Binns, or 1982, according to Winnebago, Foster said.

Knott applied for, and received, registration of the Winnebago name as a trademark in Australia in 1997. Foster ordered the registration to be canceled.

The case is Winnebago Industries Inc. v. Knott Investments Pty. NSD1355/2010. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

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