reptile party bookingAll reptile educators have unanimously voted Snakebusters as Australia's best!

It is almost unheard of for rival businesses to rush into a court of law and make sworn legal statements stating that their competitor is much better than them in all material and significant ways.

Although less common, it does sometimes happen for businesses to seek government help in levelling a "playing field" when one of the players is significantly better than all others.

However all this happened in the period from 2006 to 2008 in the lead up to legal proceedings in Victoria. These were proceedings initiated by the State Wildlife Department of Victoria, (DSE) who gathered up evidence to present to a tribinal (VCAT) that Snakebusters were way superior to all their rivals and therefore needed to have their educational and entertainment standards lowered to allow inferior outfits an ability to compete and get more customers.

Unanimously, less experienced wildlife demonstrators in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia made statements that they were struggling to get clients because Snakebusters were so much better than them.

In essence the central tenet of the case started out being that the Victorian government wanted to restrict Snakebusters and their use of devenomized snakes in hands-on reptile shows.

At the time, Snakebusters were handing out devenomized Jaffa Snakes (otherwise known as "Venomoids") to people to give them a “once-in-lifetime” experience of handling mega-deadly snakes risk free.

The surgically devenomized Jaffa Snakes were an exclusive to the Snake Man's company, that no one else anywhere in the world could match. 

The Snakebusters argument that others should improve their standards to match Snakebusters, while eminently sensible, was rejected by the DSE on the basis that it was impossible for them to do so.

Here’s why.

In a failed attempt to “level” the playing field, a few years earlier, the Victorian Wildlife Department (DSE) had outlawed venomoid surgery (devenomizing) on snakes.  While the target had been Snakebusters and Raymond Hoser (the only people with them), the rule change actually hampered everyone else.

You see Snakebusters already had lots of venomoid snakes and because laws can’t be made retrospective, Snakebusters continued with business as usual.

However no other wildlife demonstrators were able to use the methods first used by Hoser to get their own devenomized snakes, even though Hoser had done the ethical thing and published the means to do the operation in a number of recognised journals (reposted and reprinted elsewhere including the procedure being copied in the leading reptile medicine text (Doug Mader's 2006 book), other leading journals and numerous internet sites).

But the Victorian Government's ill-concieved ban on the operation had cemented what DSE told everyone was an “unfair” competitive advantage for the Snake Man's company.

Snakebusters could cart deadly snakes to shopping malls in complete safety while inexperienced imitators could at best only hope to be able to do this.

And so the VCAT case, finally heard in 2008 was about redressing this unbalance.

DSE wanted to impose a suite of unlawful restrictions against Snakebusters, to lower their standards, including not to hand out the Jaffa Snakes. The rules demanded by DSE were illegal as they were contrary to the Victorian Wildlife Act, which is supposedly what the department was in charge of. Hoser took up his legal right and sent the matter to VCAT for the presidening Judge to rule for or against the DSE rule changes.

Snakebusters argued that venomoids were good and that with Raymond Hoser as the expert on such things, he should be listened to.

Hoser called for the DSE's banning of the operation to be scrapped and also for other wildlife displayers to be charged and prosecuted when they put public safety at risk using snakes in public that were dangerous and not venomoid. To do so had been illegal under the O H and S Act since 2005!

DSE and the other wildlife demonstrators demonized Hoser's venomoids and said the outlawing of the operation was good.

The group went further and demonized all forms of hands-on reptile shows, including for snake displays, reptile shows, kids parties in Melbourne, reptile incursions in Schools, snake handling courses and the like. This was mainly because almost all the expert witnesses who made statements for Snakebusters supported these things and DSE’s lawyers sought to undermine Hoser’s recognised and unrivalled expertise and credibility in all things wildlife and reptiles, including for snake displays.

The hand-picked VCAT Tribunal judge, Anne Coghlan, ran her tribunal as a Kangaroo Court, summarily dismissing all expert evidence in favour of Hoser, including four witnesses who had expertise with venomoids and swore that all were totally safe. Instead, in an act of total bias, she accepted the false and totally unsubstantiated claims of DSE people, with no expertise on venomoids to claim that they were all dangerous and regenerated venom. Coghlan then ruled that on that basis, the Jaffa Snakes could not be handed out. Yet in the same written judgement, she claimed that Hoser's venomoids were in fact totally safe (as everyone actually knew). She then ruled that Hoser would have an unfair advantage over competitors if he were to use them for venomous snake handling courses and so she banned their use. She stated she'd prefer to put people at risk of serious snake bites when being taught how to handle snakes. Since her judgement at end 2008, there have been a large number of near fatal snakebites at snake handling courses,including persons going into Coma and other permenant diasabilities. Culpable for these incidents are Coglan and DSE who forced people to put themselves at unneccessary risk when learning how to handle venomous snakes. Also rejected by Coghlan was several videoes of venomoids biting people (and not harming them) as well as an expert autopsy result showiing no venom gland regeneration. A Victorian Worksafe official had even made statements that DSE and their friends seeking to outlaw devenomized snakes for snake handling courses were "wankers" and "tools" for even considering it.

It was on the basis of unanimous sworn legal statements from everyone to the effect that Snakebusters were “Australia’s best reptiles” made in the context of the VCAT matter, because of both the venomoid snakes, as well has Hoser's unmatched expertise, which couldn't be legislated against, Raymond Hoser then applied for the trademark, “Australia’s best reptiles”.

In the first instance, when the claim for the trademark was rejected via an adverse report, Hoser was asked to prove that he and his company Snakebusters were in fact “the best”.

Normally this stage of trademark registration would normally be the end of the road for any attempt to get such a "best" reptiles "words only" trademark.

A “words only” trademark, using a term such as “best” is almost unheard of, because normally it’d be almost impossible to be able to get statements from competitors in an industry lining up to claim that one particular company (applying for such a trademark) was so much better than them and should get a legally enforceable exclusive right to claim they are the best.

However armed with the VCAT case statements and a raft of other evidence, Raymond Hoser was able to show the trademarks office (IP Australia) that yes, everyone who counted in the reptile industry and who knew things about the same, all said the Snake Man's firm was the best in all things reptiles, including reptile shows, snake shows, school incursions, Melbourne reptile parties, reptile displays.

Because of this Raymond Hoser got the registered trademark, "Australia’s best reptiles".

The trademark’s "claim" scope was “extensive” and included pretty much everything related to reptiles and reptile education, with Snakebusters successfully proving they were the best in Melbourne, Victoria and all Australia for snake shows, school incursions, snake shows, wildlife shows, snake catching, snake handling, venomous reptile handling courses, childrens party shows, kids reptile parties, reptile displays at major events, publishing accurate information on reptiles and more.

Because all the other wildlife display companies, DSE and VCAT all made statementts totally demonsizing and condemning “hands on reptiles” as practiced by Snakebusters. (The VCAT judge, Anne Coghlan claimed “hands on reptiles” by Snakebusters was a "circus", a claim widely repeated by DSE and other demonstrators) including in "The Age" newspaper, Hoser’s application for the "hands on reptiles" trademark (first rejected), eventually made it through the adverse report process. 

You see another reason to reject a trademark is if other traders in an industry would be likely to use such words or trademarks. All other traders had by end 2008 totally dealt themselves out of that right.

The VCAT proceedings showed that not only were all the other wildlife demonstrators in Australia against hands on reptiles, but that their opposition was vehement. Contrary to the opposition to "hands-on" wildlife shows were teachers from the best schools, most other educators and leading wildlife scientists who unanimously endorsed "hands-on" education and that Snakebusters were "the best", as well as statements from over 10,000 other people in written "testimonials" and the like which eventually helped push the trademark registration over the line.

Now that Snakebusters owns both registered trademarks, "Hands on reptiles" and "Australia’s best reptiles" and similar alternative phrases, and has been vilified by inexperienced rivals for these activities, there is no way Snakebusters would now allow them to bootleg the trademarks a few years later for the deliberate purpose of stealing Snakebusters clients or potential clients who seek to have hands-on reptiles shows as done by Snakebusters.

This is particularly so as “hands on” by Snakebusters means holding the reptiles and “hands on” by others at best may mean, merely touching a reptile for a few fleeting seconds.

The same applies in terms of inexperienced people who purchase a $70 business name one day and then erect a website claiming to be “best” wildlife educators the next.

Snakebusters won’t allow that either and with the registered trademarks, Snakebusters now has the legally enforceable powers to stop imitators who bootleg in their tracks.

For the benefit of school teachers, parents, company heads and others, it’s important that they know who is in fact best in the reptile education, reptile childrens party, snake show, reptile course and wildlife displays business and who alone does proper hands on with reptiles.

This is why Raymond Hoser and his company Snakebusters will be vigilant in protecting our trademarks and other intellectual property (or IP).

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