An online auction that resulted in the domain Thredbo.com being sold for $10,000 has become part of an expensive legal battle thought to have already cost the parties involved – Kosciuszko Thredbo (KT) and Thredbonet Marketing Pty Ltd – more than $1 million. It’s a complicated case but one that essentially revolves around the concept – who if anyone owns the right to exclusively use the place name Thredbo?
The story began when the then owner of the Thredbo.com domain offered to sell it to KT, which holds the head lease on the Thredbo Alpine Resort from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
This makes KT, a subsidiary of Amalgamated Holdings, the landlord for every resident and business in Thredbo.
It also owns the lift infrastructure, ski school and every other aspect of mountain operations.
Locals say a condition of the lease they sign with KT is that they cannot use the name Thredbo in their branding.
However, KT has no control over online real estate and there are numerous sites, many of them owned by Thredbonet Marketing, using Threbdo in the URL.
That puts them in competition with KT and its main URL, Thredbo.com.au, when it comes to selling accommodation.
Which brings us to Thredbo.com.
It is, you would have to say, an excellent domain with enormous traffic-driving potential.
But, for reasons that are difficult to understand, KT decided not to buy it when the then owner offered it to them.
The domain then went to auction where it was purchased by Thredbonet Marketing for just $10,000 in May, 2011.
In 2012 KT applied for an trademark that would give them total control of the Thredbo name in all spheres, including the internet.
It was awarded but with a three month window for objections to be lodged.
Two weeks before this window closed a KT lawyer wrote to Thredbonet Marketing, which was not aware of the trademark application, and said they were no longer able to use the word Thredbo in any way, shape or form.
So Thredbonet Marketing lodged an objection and the case ended up in the Federal Court.
The irony of course is if that eager beaver lawyer had not jumped the gun and waited for another couple of weeks Thredbonet Marketing would have had no recourse.
In Federal Court, the fundamental argument of KT was that Thredbo didn’t exist as a place until the ski resort came along in the late 1950s, ergo it owns the name.
The counter argument is that Thredbo has been used a descriptor for the district since the 19th century.
As you can imagine the court case has sparked intense debate with the Thredbo community and it has all spilled over into the online forums at Ski.com.au (see thread).
A lot of the comments revolve around a corporation owning a place name many believes belongs to no-one.
One thing is for sure, there’ll be no winner when the judge hands down his decision, hopefully one day soon.