Senses Direct sinks under weight of name judgement

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Direct mail and fulfilment house Senses Direct has gone under, four months after losing its three-year battle with publishing giant Sensis over the trademark on its name.

Adverse judgement: Mark Mina, Senses Direct
Adverse judgement: Mark Mina, Senses Direct

Senses Direct is now in voluntary liquidation. Owner Mark Mina racked up an estimated $1.4m in costs he incurred as a result of the legal fight over the name, following the judgement against him in court three months ago.

DTS Communicate is now operating from the Parramatta premises, and long term associate B&C Mailing is also operating from the same building.

Mina established the business a quarter of a century ago as AP Mailing, spending the next 13 years growing the company, based on his background as a postmaster. Then along came Gresham private equity with its grand plans and sacks of cash to create mega-printer Geon. Mina sold to them, and continued as national direct marketing manager for five years.

Following the end of his contract he left, but then when Geon crumbled to dust 18 months later he – in common with many former print business owners enjoying a Kerry Packer Alan Bond moment – bought the business back. It was still in its original Parramatta location. He renamed it Senses Direct, registering the name with no issue. It was when he tried to trademark the name three years later that his troubles began, as Sensis took umbrage, initially offering him $10,000 to change the name, then – when he refused – engaging in a lengthy and costly court battle.

Sensis took the position that the trademark application should be denied, and that Senses Direct had also infringed on its own trademark, with both its main name and several sub-names. Mina took the view that the two businesses operated in different spaces, and that his business was two words, not one, with Direct clearly visible; however, the judge came down in favour of Sensis.

Sensis is 70 per cent owned by US private equity fund Platinum and 30 per cent by Telstra. It publishes the Yellow Pages and White Pages.

A furious Mina accused Sensis of using “bully boy tactics” – a charge which Sensis rejected, its managing director John Allen saying, “Sensis made numerous attempts to settle the issue with Senses Direct prior to court and avoid costly legal proceedings for both parties, but each of these was rejected.”

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