Federal Court reflects on yoga metatags claim

Australia

In Kailash Centre for Personal Development Inc v Yoga Magik Pty Ltd, the Federal Court has ruled that the defendant's use of the name of the plaintiff company's owner in the content and metatags of its website infringed the plaintiff's rights. The court ordered the defendant to explicitly state on its website that it is not associated with the plaintiff.

Well-known yoga teacher Jonn Mumford and his student Meghan Stevens formed Yoga Magik to provide yoga courses on a commercial basis. The courses were principally prepared by Mumford and were advertised via a website. The relationship between Mumford and Stevens broke down. Mumford left Yoga Magik and transferred his interest in the company to Stevens. Mumford then created a new company - Kailash Centre for Personal Development - and started offering yoga courses. Stevens continued to conduct the business of Yoga Magik and to operate its related website, which maintained a number of references to Mumford and his work.

Mumford objected to Yoga Magik's continued use of his famous name on its website both in the content of its pages and in its metatags. He brought proceedings under the Trade Practices Act 1974 to restrain Yoga Magik from using his name, arguing that such use, in the course of trade or commerce, was misleading or deceptive. The case made its way to the Federal Court.

The Federal Court held that the website could cause the false impression that it was associated with Mumford and that Stevens was authorized by Mumford to teach the materials referred to on the site. The court ordered that Yoga Magik post on each page of the website featuring a reference to Mumford a notice stating that:

  • Mumford is no longer associated with Yoga Magik;

  • he has no control over the content of the site; and

  • Stevens is not authorized by Mumford to teach any of his courses.

The court further ordered the cancellation of a separate domain name registration for 'jonnmumford.com' and sub-domain 'members.ozemail.com.au/~mumford8'. It also awarded damages of A$4,000 to Mumford.

Desmond J Ryan, Davies Collison Cave Solicitors, Melbourne

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