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Social media giant TikTok loses trademark case against lender

Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok has failed to convince IP Australia that mortgage provider Tic:Toc should change its name.

The case was brought against Adelaide-based Tic:Toc by ByteDance, the Shanghai-based parent company of TikTok.
ByteDance argued that Tic:Toc’s branding was deceptively similar or substantially identical to that of TikTok.

However, IP Australia delegate Louise Tuohy said that the two brands were neither identical nor substantially identical.

“On a side-by-side comparison there are clear differences between the trademarks. While the words in both trademarks start with the letters TI and TO, the Trade Mark is for the words TIC and TOC, with both words ending in the letter C and separated by a colon,” Ms Tuohy said.

“In comparison the Opponent’s trade mark contains the words TIK and TOK, with the letter K used in place of the letter C of the Trade Mark. The letter C in the Trade Mark along with the use of the colon which is generally used as an expression of time and the letter K in the Opponent’s trade mark, are unlikely to go unnoticed on a side-by-side comparison.

“For these reasons, I find that the compared trademarks are not substantially identical. The total impression emerging from a side-by-side comparison is not one of resemblance.”

Ms Tuohy was not satisfied that the Chinese social media giant was first to use its TikTok trademark in Australia.

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“TikTok was released and available for download on Google Play either on 7 May 2017 or 12 May 2017. However, the international launch of the TikTok platform was not held until September 2017,” she said.

“In Australia, no official marketing and/or advertising push took place until the TikTok platform was officially launched in May 2019.”

The result means that both brands are able to continue operating in Australia.

“Following the trademark hearing, the Australian law has recognised our brand has been operating in the Australian market since July 2017, two years prior to the Australian launch of social media app, TikTok, in May 2019,” a Tic:Toc spokesperson told Mortgage Business.

“As Australia’s first digital lender and platform company we are satisfied the successful outcome facilitates us continuing to operate both our home loan and enterprise businesses. Now, we are looking forward to continuing to deliver exceptional customer experiences and value to our customers.”

[Related: Tic:Toc obtains CDR accreditation] 

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