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The more things change, the more they stay the same - Petty Motorcycle Politics

Date:
By Mr Rob Salvatore
Category: General

 

The more things change, the more they stay the same - Victorian Motorcycle Advocacy Petty Politics.

 

A few years ago, the Independent Riders' Group, lead by Damien Codognotto, started making noise about being called the Motorcycle Riders Association. This represented a return to the past where Damien had once lead the then MRA. At some point the IRG changed the name of their facebook page to include the name "Motorcycle Riders Association".

At the time, the VMC requested that they desist on the basis that Damien didn't own the Intellectual Property to call themselves that. Not surprisingly, the IRG and Damien in particular, kicked up a massive stink and suggested that we should take them to court about it. Knowing just how belligerant things could get, we stepped back for the greater good of Victorian motorcycle advocacy. The IRG's page featured the MRA name ever since.

The more savvy of you would have pieced together that at some point Damien lost the leadership of the original MRA. It goes a little further, he was infact expelled in 2006 for bringing the association into disrepute, which is a matter of public record and was even reported in AMCN.

The real/original Motorcycle Riders Assocation (wound up in 2013), was an advocacy body that had enjoyed a degree of respect but both it and its reputation were torn to shreds through continual denigration by a factional group related to the ousted one time leader. It's also a matter of public record that the VMC started becoming the target of similar denigration from the same group, one individual even creating a fake VMC facebook page.

 

The reason that that little bit of history is important is that the denigration of the MRAV (and those in the MRAV) was one of the key reasons why the MRAV was not able to field an executive committee in the end. This directly lead to the association being wound up. Its Intellectual Property and some assets were donated to the VMC at a Special General Meeting in 2013. As a result, the VMC has rights over the MRAV IP, maintains an archive website which keeps MRAV historical records available as part of continuing the Traditional Melbourne Toyrun and a VMC exec member is a co-admin on the official MRAV facebook page.

 

So the VMC has "lived" for several years with another group using a name they had no right to use and importantly, we had no intention to dispute that situation. Fast forward to a week and a half ago.


A week and a half ago, someone who identifies as an inner circle member of the IRG (aka the "MRA") initiated an IP dispute claim on facebook against the MRAV facebook page. Facebook takes trademark and IP issues seriously and disabled some functionality of the MRAV page pending dispute resolution. Facebook notified the page admin that the page would remain as is until they proved entitlement and rights to use the existing MRAV name and logo. (It is interesting that Facebook doesn't test the bonafides of the accusation but instead asks the accused to prove themselves.)

To cut a long story short, the appropriate evidence was provided, including reference to the public record of Damien's denied application to trademark the MRA name some 10 years ago. Facebook deliberated on the provided evidence and in the end, denied the IP claim and reinstated full privileges and rights to the MRAV page. This is an important outcome because it found that the IRG's IP dispute claim had no basis and confirmed that the MRAV facebook page had the legitimate right to use the IP that was disputed.

In light of this outcome, we asked Facebook to review the "MRA formerly IRG" facebook page in respect of the use of the words "Motorcycle Rider's Association" appearing in both the page's name and logo. Our intent was for Facebook to ask the IRG to revert back to the previous name. Facebook instead disabled the page.

Shortly after this occured, the VMC received an email from Damien Codognotto that included a veiled threat that we needed to take action to reverse Facebook's decision or matters would become public. The great irony of this request is that this situation is one of their own making and is somewhat final given that they initiated a claim with Facebook and Facebook found against them.

 

So what now? Given Facebook's ruling in regards to the IRG's initiated claim and the email we received, the VMC has advised Damien Codognotto of the following:

  • Any previous permissions granted in any previous communications have been rescinded.
  • The IRG can use the eagle emblem logo if they wish, but without the name or words similar to "Motorcycle Rider's Association" appearing in the logo, and
  • That their issue is with Facebook, not with the VMC.

For what it's worth, we believe that Facebook will return full access to the IRG facebook page should they agree to revert back to the IRG name - but this has nothing to do with us.

 

For those that have been around this space for a while, they'd recognise that it is very likely that this is not the end of it, but at least you have read and heard the facts about the latest installment here first.

 

Ride Safe, Safe Ride.

Attached Documents:
AMCN Oct 2006 MRAA SGM Article

 

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