Sydney Law School intellectual property lecturer Dr Fady Aoun has won the Inaugural Australian Legal Research Awards (ALRA) Early Career Researcher (ECR) Article/Chapter Award for his journal article ‘Whitewashing Australia's History of Stigmatising Trade Marks and Commercial Imagery’.
Dr Aoun's article is the result of original archival research into the colonial and Commonwealth Trade Mark Registers, which revealed an extensive history of stigmatising representations of marginalised groups in Australia.
The article examines fascinating but troubling pieces of historical evidence — trade marks composed of images and text - that were registered between the 1800s and 1930.
This is a stunning piece of work and utterly deserving of this honour. No other work on the history of trade mark law has tackled the question of stigmatising and offensive marks in such a comprehensive way.
Although there have been past studies of advertising in that period, Dr Aoun’s work is wholly original in its examination of the role of the trade mark registers in promulgating, and even protecting, racist images and terms, and their role in commerce.
Dr Aoun’s close and careful analysis of registered trade marks subverts the traditional view that trade mark registers are an ‘unmitigated public good’, merely documenting proprietary rights.
The article has received international attention, with invitations to present the work in the United States and engagement from pioneering researchers in trade mark and cultural theory, such as Canadian Research Chair in Law, Communication and Culture at York University, Professor Rosemary Coombes.
As acknowledged by Professor Murray Lee, “This is outstanding recognition from a global audience of the significance of the work.”