Beach warfare as term 'lifeguard' is trademarked

Saving lives seems a noble pursuit, but the two organisations that patrol Australia's beaches, ready to save swimmers in trouble, are at loggerheads over the word "lifeguard".

In one corner are the professional lifesavers, employed by local councils to monitor beaches throughout the year. In the other are the better known, more glamorous volunteer lifesavers, with their distinctive red and yellow uniforms, who patrol only at weekends and on public holidays. Now Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), which represents the latter, has quietly trademarked the word "lifeguard", meaning its rivals can no longer use it in marketing and merchandise. The Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association (Apola) accused SLSA of money-grabbing, and said the move had "scared off" its sponsors.

The SLSA, which has 44,000 members and receives government funding, registered the trademark during a wide-ranging review of its image. The organisation considered scrapping the four-panelled red and yellow cap, worn by surf lifesavers for more than 80 years, after younger members criticised it as old-fashioned and offering little sun protection.

This week, following a poll of members, the cap has survived. Indeed, so strong was members' attachment to it that SLSA had decided to trademark it, along with the red and yellow patrol flags. And, while it was at it, it had trademarked several terms associated with its activities: "surf patrol", "surf rescue", "nipper [a young lifesaver]" and, most contentiously, "lifeguard".

John Andrews, secretary of Apola, which represents professional lifeguards on Queensland's Gold and Sunshine Coasts, and is sponsored by retailers selling lifeguard-related merchandise, told the Courier-Mail in Queensland his members were horrified. "It's a big surprise to us," he said. "They've done it without any industry consultation, and we're somewhat miffed that they've taken this approach."

Sponsors were concerned, Mr Andrews said, because retailers had been told to stop selling the merchandise. He warned that other groups, such as water-theme parks, would also be affected. He accused SLSA of pursuing a commercial strategy rather than saving lives. "SLSA have taken a view that organisations using the word 'lifeguard' have to get permission from them. The financial impact for us is significant. Unlike Surf Life Saving, we get no government funding."

The chief operating officer of SLSA, Peter George, told the Sydney Morning Herald that SLSA employed 700 paid lifeguards, more than any other organisation in Australia. "We have a huge vested interest in the word 'lifeguard'," he said. "We don't propose to stop them [council guards] using the term 'lifeguard', and we don't propose to stop them using it legitimately to support income streams." The aim, he said, was to prevent organisations not involved with water safety from using the trademarked words and images to raise money.

And although the cap stays, red, wide-brimmed hats and peaked caps are to become mandatory next summer for sun protection, and will be worn over the skullcaps. The uniform was modernised two years ago, introducing boardshorts. Younger club members said they disliked the tight-fitting Speedo swimming briefs, known as "budgie-smugglers".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Anna Smaill’s debut novel, The Chimes, is a fusion of fantasy and romance
booksMan Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Sport
Ji So-Yun scores the only goal of the game
sport
Arts and Entertainment
One of the Pyongyang posters, the slogan of which reads: ‘Let the exploits of the northern railway conductors shine!’
art
Life and Style
Linguine with mussels and fresh tomatoes
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?