SMX fights Telecom for brand

Telecom's trademark is too close to the brand SMX uses for its spam-filtering service, says the company

New Zealand secure internet start-up SMX is taking on Telecom over a trademark, saying it is too close to the brand it uses for its spam-filtering service.

Auckland-based SMX uses the brand name SecureMX for its mail-scrubbing service, which last week went international, via a deal with Indian IT giant CMC, a subsidiary of Tata.

According to the Intellectual Property Office, Telecom’s subsidiary, Telecom IP, applied for a trademark for “SecureMe” in December 2005. This was accepted in January last year and published in the New Zealand Gazette in February.

At this point in the process other interested parties were invited to lodge any opposition to the grant of the trademark. According to the Intellectual Property Office, an objection was lodged against the trademark in May.

SMX’s managing director Jesse Ball says the company is objecting to the trademark on the grounds of prior use. He says SMX applied for a trademark for SecureMX before Telecom applied for SecureMe but was turned down on the grounds that “MX” is an IT industry acronym for “mail exchange”.

However, granting SecureMe to Telecom now would put SMX’s use of SecureMX at risk, after the company has been using and building the brand for several years, says Ball.

Telecom would only confirm that an objection to the trademark application had been made and the company was awaiting a hearing from the Intellectual Property Office in the next few months.

Last week SMX (with other local start-ups Sonar6 and DLS) made a major overseas market breakthrough with the CMC deal. In March, Computerworld reported that the company was in talks with Symantec as well, but no announcements have yet been made and Ball was not prepared to comment last week.

SMX’s unique mail-scrubbing solution is geared for channel distribution. The service is scalable, Ball says, and easily “white-labelled”, to allow other providers to brand the service in their own way and as part of their own product suites.

This is, essentially, what CMC, and presumably Symantec, are looking at.

The core system was developed almost by accident. SMX was renting space at local IT service company RHE, when that company’s managing director lamented a growing spam problem, says Ball. The founders of SMX offered to help and created a solution by the next day.

A lot of work and tuning has since gone into the product, which is written in Java and C, with the next addition planned being a reporting console for corporate governance.

Ball says the company is targeting particular niches that appear attracted to the company’s solution, including councils, district health boards and smaller organisations.

SMX claims 99.97% accuracy, but says in reality the rate is higher, says Ball.

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