Lots in a name: brand protection catches Kangaroo Island on the hop

KANGAROO ISLAND is usually associated with sea lions basking on pristine beaches, koalas dozing in gum trees and roos lazing on verdant headlands. Now this serene island is set to be linked to funnel webs and the ''longest, biggest, most exhilarating water thrill ride in the world''.

But the ride, named after the venomous arachnid, is 1000 kilometres away from the South Australian island. It is instead at the Jamberoo Action Park on the NSW south coast. The Funnel Web ride, as it is known, is part of the first stage of the park's $25 million ''Kangaroo Island'' development.

Jamberoo Action Park's use of the South Australian island's name - once called ''Australia's Galapagos'' - has raised an issue of whether trademarking of place names is needed for Australia's tourism regions to protect their brand identities, products and services, in a similar way to the Champagne region in France.

''No one's likely to misconstrue an ad for Kangaroo Island with some cheesy theme park with a waterslide,'' says Craig Wickham, managing director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island tours. ''But if you are, as we are, trying to establish some sort of brand recognition for what Kangaroo Island offers as a destination, then it certainly has a risk of diluting that or creating some confusion.''

There's also a Kangaroo Island Shop - but it's not on Kangaroo Island at all. It's on the South Australia mainland at Goolwa and doesn't actually stock any produce from the island, says Kristina Roberts, general manager of the Kangaroo Island Futures Authority, which promotes the destination's unique qualities.

Such matters have prompted the Kangaroo Island Futures Authority to seek a certification trademark for the island from Intellectual Property Australia.

A spokeswoman for the Jamberoo Action Park, which has not breached any laws, says it used the word ''kangaroo'' to project an ''Australiana'' theme and ''island'' because its new attractions are surrounded by a man-made watercourse called the Lazy River (coincidentally, there's a cafe and cellar door near Dubbo, NSW, named ''Lazy River Estate'').

The trademarking of tourism region names has become even more relevant because of the rise of internet search engines, says Mark Challis, chief executive officer of Yarra Ranges Regional Marketing, which promotes tourism for the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria.

Because anyone can register ''YarraValley.com.au'' as an organisation, Mr Challis says his marketing body has registered 50 URLs so those not involved with the Yarra Valley can't use the name or profit from it.

''There's the defensive position, which is looking at what your legal options are,'' he says, ''but more importantly is the offensive position, which is to own the [online] space. It's up to the region or the brand to protect their position, and it's doable,'' he says.

Ms Roberts says Kangaroo Island Futures Authority is also working with the Barossa Valley wine-growing region, also in South Australia, which has had ''copycats of their wine overseas'', to try to get a trademark in place.

''We're leading with this and hoping that other regions will be able to follow,'' she says.

''Kangaroo Island has some great assets - its wildlife, its environment, its wine, its high-end agriculture and wool.

''We're wanting to maximise and use that brand recognition, so I think it is vital that we get some sort of protection for our brand.''

The story Lots in a name: brand protection catches Kangaroo Island on the hop first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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