Will the real Australian sceptics please step forward?

In this post we take a look at yet another complaint directed at the Australian Vaccination Network inc (AVN). It’s from the usual suspects. This time, they want some of AVN’s domain names.


The website you are now viewing was recently the subject of a complaint about its name.

Why? Because of the terms ‘Australian’ and ‘sceptics’. As you can see, both these terms appear in the domain name. And two organisations took exception to that. They jointly complained to ICANN, which is the international body regulating domain names, saying we had no entitlement to use these terms in our domain names.

How did they work that out? Well… it’s a long story. First of all, lets get acquainted with the two organisations who made the complaint:

  • NSW Assoc. Y0133609 – otherwise known as Australian Skeptics Inc. and publishers of a magazine called ‘The Skeptic’, with approximately 2,000 subscribers.
  • VIC Assoc. A0026705U – otherwise known as Australian Skeptics (Victorian Branch) Inc.

In a nutshell, the two groups figured that since their names indicated they were Australian and sceptics (although with different spelling) they should have exclusive use of the terms. To argue this, they proposed that calling themselves Australian sceptics for many years, and selling a magazine and other merchandise sporting one or both terms, meant they had procured the equivalent of a trademark. And according to them, we had infringed that trademark by registering a similar domain name.

Click here to read the Complaint.

They thought they had a trademark
To begin with, we need to note that neither of the two organisations have a registered trademark. No big deal there. It is possible to have what’s known as a common law mark. By way of explanation, that’s what people claim when they find someone using a mark they’ve also been using themselves. Perhaps they neglected to register it but now feel they should have. In that case they can retrospectively declare it to be a common law mark in order to pursue legal action against the other party. In other words, it’s basically the equivalent of a trademark but without registration.

But this all assumes the mark (in this case, ‘term’) is actually registrable. There were two serious problems with this approach.

First, trademarks are for the exclusive use of a single entity. Yet in this instance, there were two separate entities (the two organisations) claiming a common trademark. They were not formally related, despite the fact one group had the word ‘branch’ in its name. In fact, as far back as 1996, they went to great lengths in the magazine ‘The Skeptic’ to make it clear that not only was there no formal branch structure in their organisation, but there was NO relationship between the different groups. Today they self-describe as “a loose confederation of groups across Australia”.

So our first task was to get clarification regarding who was claiming the trademark. Unfortunately, the ICANN process didn’t allow ‘pre-hearing’ questions and clarifications. You get a few thousand words to make your case by way of a response, and that’s it. So we incorporated this query into our response.

The second serious problem the complainants had was that the term ‘Australian sceptics’, either spelling, is simply not registrable as a trademark. Trademarks have to be distinctive and not merely generic. You can’t just pick a couple of words out of the dictionary and trademark them. This might explain why, in approximately 30 years of existence, neither association has been granted one.

Our Response
These two fundamental problems meant they had precious little to go with. But there is more. Please take the time to read our full response to the complaint. It reveals some rather interesting facets about this collection of would be ‘sceptic police’ (or should that be ‘thought police’?).

Click here to read our Response

For further reading please see our Annexe

This was an interesting exercise because of some of the information we uncovered in the process. If you want to understand more about those who support the abusive attackers trying to bring down the AVN, please read our full response, linked above.The Pot Calling The Kettle Black

We received the complaint just before Christmas day and the deadline for response was January 9. Great timing. We quickly assembled a small team and told our family members to enjoy their holiday without us. At the same time, we received a directive from NSW Fair Trading to change our name. No reasons given nor any hints as to what might be an acceptable new name. The deadline if we wanted to ask questions was, again, January 9. Again, great timing.

We have no idea if these complaints were coordinated and designed to overload our resources. It is more than a little suspicious that two formal complaints fell into our lap at the most inconvenient time of year, with professionals and volunteers away or not contactable.

The Decision
The decision was, of course, in our favour. In fact the adjudicator didn’t even get past first base. The complainants had no trademark nor, in the opinion of the adjudicator, common law mark. So there could be no infringement.

“The Complainants provided a bald statement that they were founded in 1981 and that “AUSTRALIAN SKEPTICS is a common law mark that can be continually associated with goods and services provided by the complainants.” In terms of evidence, very little was provided which fell way short of what is needed to prove secondary meaning in the mark.

…As Complainants have not succeeded on the first limb of the Policy, namely paragraph 4(a)(i), it is not necessary for the Panel to make a further inquiry into or reach a decision on the issues of paragraphs 4(a) (ii) and (iii).”

Click here to read the full judgement.

Some more reading for those who are interested
We requested ‘pre-hearing’ clarifications on the process and some other things. They can be read here:

Preliminary Query I

Preliminary Query II

As mentioned above, these queries were never answered, which is one way to discover the ICANN process. They were however on file when the adjudicator sat to consider the complaint. Also on file was an absence of response to them.

Greg Beattie

Why Autism Research Goes Nowhere – The Researchers Who Takes Us Down All The Blind Alleys

Sceptical Rating for the article reviewed: Four Plungers – 

The following article was originally published on the Child Health Safety blog. We appreciate their kind permission to reprint this important information here.

Have you ever wondered why supposedly no one knows where “all the autism” is coming from?  Here we set out a blatant example of a misdirection of research results taking the medical professions and the public down a blind alley. 

In the case of the paper “Advancing Paternal Age and Autism” Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63:1026-1032 the authors had and published data which was and remains fundamental to proving the increase in autistic conditions since the expansion in the vaccine programmes in the mid to late 1980s is real and substantial.

For the best part of two decades health officials around the world have insisted untruthfully that the increases in autistic conditions since the 1980s are attributable to “better diagnosis” and “greater awareness”.  They also used to insist that autistic conditions are caused by genetics [have “internal” causes] until it started to be established that the huge increases could not be accounted for on such a basis – because if it was all genetic then the numbers should have been the same all along over centuries.

What the data from “Advancing Paternal Age and Autism” showed and shows was that prior to the introduction of vaccines to Israel the figure for cases of childhood [ie typical or Kanner] autism was 8.4 in 10,0000 children and there were even fewer cases of Asperger’s syndrome so the increase in cases of Aspergers is even more dramatic and serious than even that of childhood autism cases.

The data the authors obtained when compared to current data shows that not only has the incidence and prevalence of childhood autism increased dramatically but also that the incidence and prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome has been even more dramatic since the mid 1980s and dwarfs the increase in autism.  The data was obtained using current diagnostic criteria so was and is comparable to current data for current cases. So what the data and results of this paper really show is that the allegation the increase in autistic conditions is “better diagnosis” and “greater awareness” is false. You can read more about this here:

Autism Figures – Existing Studies Show Shocking Real Increase Since 1988

The authors not only ignored what seems a very obvious finding from their data and results but also misdirected the medical profession and the public away from that finding and down an obscure and blind alley.

Medicine in general is the best example of misdirection of research efforts where commercial and conflicting interests – ie pure greed for making money – seem to ensure that research in many areas is directed down all the blindest of blind alleys and the obvious avenues are either ignored or the research is suppressed or prevented.  The research funds are spent on research guaranteed not to find causes or cures, but at the very best only for drug treatments to be paid for over a lifetime of non cure treatments with drug adverse effects of the drugs aplenty. 

There is a great deal of money to be made that way over many decades.  “Genetic” research is a great general example where billions of US tax dollars have been spent and there is little to show for it – and especially where autistic conditions are concerned. 

Good old medieval serfdom and feudalism never died they have just been refined and redefined.  The majority, the 21st century “serfs”, pay their feudal “tithe” to their new feudal Lords in different ways.  In the 21st Century this means paying with their health and sometimes their lives – not much change there then.

Instead of focussing on an important result the authors of Advancing Paternal Age and Autism made a very different and obscure claim.   The claim was that fathers aged over 40 had a higher probability of having autistic children.  The authors made that the focus of their paper.  The claim was made on the basis of scant data.  The paper was a statistical study [ie this was tobacco science not clinical investigations] and this claim was based on a very small sample with a poor confidence interval.  Fathers aged over 40 involved in the sample accounted for 3 per cent of the children concerned and the confidence in the figures was very wide and thus of extremely low reliability.

Misdirection from studies like this one must obviously be holding back the uncovering of fundamental information regarding autistic conditions and supports and enables government health officials to continue to make over far too many years the kinds of false claims they have been making about the causes of autistic conditions.

The authors and the institutions for which they work need to explain themselves.  Israeli parents who performed their military service deserve better than this – which looks like it is mostly by Americans exploiting their connections with Israel.

Here are the details of the institutions and of the authors:

  • Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1230, New York, NY 10029 (Drs Reichenberg, Silverman, and Davidson),
  • Seaver Center for Autism Research (Dr Silverman), Mount Sinai School of Medicine;
  • Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University (Drs Gross, Bresnahan, Harlap, Malaspina, and Susser);
  • New York State Psychiatric Institute (Drs Gross, Bresnahan, Malaspina, and Susser), New York;
  • Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, England (Dr Reichenberg);
  • Department of Psychiatry, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer (Drs Weiser and Davidson);
  • School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan (Dr Rabinowitz);
  • School of Social Work, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Dr Shulman);
  • Medical Corps, Israel Defense Forces, Tel Aviv (Drs Lubin and Knobler), Israel.