Primary Health Care loses legal battle over naming

2 minute read

Primary Health Care has lost an appeal after a seven-year battle for ownership of its name


Primary Health Care lost an appeal on April 1 in the Federal Court after a seven-year battle for ownership of the phrase “primary health care”

But it’s still not clear whether Primary Health Networks will finally be able to speak their names loud and proud as the decision may yet be subject to a fresh appeal.

Primary Health Care filed for trademarks of the phrase and its logo in 2009, and in 2010 it took action against Australian General Practice Network Ltd and several Divisions of General Practice Network over their plans to adopt the name Primary Health Care Network.

The regional entities avoided a fight by taking the name Medicare Locals, but the litigation threat loomed again when the 61 MLs were scrapped and rebadged as PHNs.

Just 36 hours before their debut on July 1 last year, the 31 PHNs’ CEOs received a late-night email advising them of the ongoing legal claim and warning that Primary had also applied for a trademark of the name Primary Health Network.

“If you choose to use ‘primary health network’ in your name you should seek independent legal advice,” the health department advisory said. It advised them to use the acronym PHN and avoid buying signage or branded stationery until the coast was clear.

Primary argued the phrase “primary health care” was not a mere description of its management and administration services for GPs and said late founder Dr Ed Bateman had found the name “unique and memorable”.

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