The High Court has directed that a GAA trustee can be cross-examined in preparation for the hearing of a dispute over the use of the ‘Mayo GAA’ county crest.
Mr Justice Senan Allen made the ruling in advance of the hearing of a dispute between the GAA and Savanagh Securities which operates T-Rex Clothing in Castlebar, Co Mayo, which is allegedly in breach of trademark by using the logo on its products.
The judge said Seosamh Ó Baoill, one of two men who were GAA trustees elected at annual congress in 2006 around the time the crest was registered with Controller of Patents Designs and TradeMarks, can be cross examined by lawyers for Savanagh which is challenging the Controller’s decision to rectify a mistake in that registration.
That mistake was that the registration was in the name of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael (GAA) which, as an unincorporated association, was legally incapable of holding property and specifically trademarks.
The dispute arose in 2015 when Mayo GAA complained to Savanagh about the trademarked county crest being used on its on clothing, including tee-shirts.
The GAA’s own lawyers dealing with trademarks also wrote to the company complaining the official GAA logo was being used on t-shirts on sale in all 32 counties.
Savanagh said it had the permission of the Mayo Ladies Gaelic Football Association to use the crest but confirmed that it had ceased all advertising and production of all alleged infringing items.
However, a further complaint from the GAA followed. Savanagh’s lawyers then suggested the registered owner of the trademark was not the GAA but the officers for the time being of the Mayo county board. They repeated that Savanagh had permission to use it from “a part of the GAA”.
The GAA could therefore never have had legal standing to bring any trademark infringement proceedings, the claims were groundless. and the GAA was liable for damages to Savanagh for loss it said to have sustained, it was claimed.
Savanagh then sought a declaration of invalidity of the trademark from the Controller who rejected the application. The Controller said however the administrative mistake on the register could be rectified by a formal application for registration in the names of the trustees.
Savanagh lodged an appeal against that decision with the High Court. In the meantime, the GAA made an application to the court to have the register rectified by replacing GAA with the names of Toms Ó Riain, director general of the GAA, and Mr O’Baoill,
Savanagh then asked the court for an order allowing it to cross examine Mr O’Baoill on a short affidavit he had sworn for the proceedings. The GAA opposed the application.
Mr Justice Senan Allen, in a ruling on the issue, said the cross-examination of Mr O’Baoill should go ahead but “whether it will get Savanagh anywhere remains to be seen”.
He was quite satisfied the cross examination application was not an abuse of process as claimed by the GAA.
He adjourned the matter to next week for form of order and costs. The main case has yet to be heard