Nick Giannopoulos puts fellow comedians on legal notice
WOG boy Nick Giannopoulos has put comedian colleagues on notice, warning them to stop using the word that made him famous.
In a move which has reportedly unsettled the Melbourne comedy scene, lawyers for Giannopoulos have sent letters demanding rivals stop using the word "wogs".
"My trademarks are wogs or wogboys. I don't own the word wog," he said.
"My lawyers have been hired by me to protect my trademark."
It's understood Giannopoulos trademarked the word in the early 1990s following legal advice.
He has traded off the word wogs for more than 30 years, since he first burst on to the showbiz scene with the successful stage show Wogs out of Work in 1987.
It saw him go on to launch the groundbreaking television series Acropolis Now, and star in the smash hit film The Wog Boy, which brought in $13 million at the box office.
Other successful stage shows included Wog Boys, Wog-A-Rama, Wog Story and most recently Star Wogs.
It's understood lawyers for Giannopoulos have recently sent letters to Melbourne comedians requesting they stop using the word wogs to promote their shows.
"There would've been a show passing off as one of mine and my lawyers would've sent them a letter," Giannopoulos said.
"The government ruled in my favour in the mid-90s saying the word 'wogs' is associated with my previous shows and they granted me that trademark so that I could protect my business interests."
It's understood a number of comedians who trade in ethnic-based comedy and believe they should be free to use the word wogs are upset by the restriction.
For 18 years Italo-Australian comedian Gabriel Rossi has performed a comedy show called A Very Woggy Xmas.
He said he had not received a legal letter but had been advised to change the name of his annual show, just in case.
"As someone from Italian heritage who grew up in the 70s and 80s … I see it as somewhat of an insult that this fella thinks he owns the word," Mr Rossi said.
"I grew up with the word and particularly as a young boy."
Mr Rossi has now changed the name of his show to A Very Ethnic Xmas.
Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer Alison Barrett said any word could be trademarked.
"In fact a letter, number, colour, logo, sound, smell or shape can all be protected by a trademark, and they don't need to be unique or new," Ms Barrett said.
"This gives the registered owner of the mark, or word in this case, exclusive rights to use it."
She said any trademark needed to be actively used in the course of trade, and if not used it could be removed from the register.
Ms Barrett said there could be a defence to any legal action that can be argued, depending on how the word has been used and if it has been used in 'good faith'.
According to the Macquarie Dictionary, the word 'wog' originated in the 1920s as British nautical slang for natives to North Africa or the Middle East.
Australian soldiers brought it home, where it came to be applied to post-war migrants, many of whom came from Greece, Italy, Malta, Yugoslavia and Lebanon.