UK: On Your Marks

Last Updated: 13 January 2009

Article by The Intellectual Property Team

With the growth in international trade, your company's trademark might be much more valuable than you think. It might also face more threats than you realise.

It must rank as one of the strangest examples of alleged trademark infringement ever. Legendary American stuntman Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel took great exception to the video of Kanye West's 2006 single Touch the Sky.

In the offending video, the US rapper (as "Evel Kanyevel") wears a stars and stripes-trimmed white jumpsuit and crash helmet, reminiscent of those worn by Knievel in the 1970s as he performed the daredevil motorcycle stunts that made him world famous.

Echoing Knievel's unsuccessful attempt to jump over Idaho's Snake River Canyon in a mini-rocket in 1974, "Kanyevel" climbs into a similarly unlikely looking contraption to "traverse" the Grand Canyon.

In December 2006, Knievel's attorney, Richard Fee, filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against West and Roc-A-Fella Records. Speaking to MTV, Fee said: "Mr Knievel has a trademark on Evel Knievel and an extraordinarily well-recognised white jumpsuit. He wants to be compensated for uses of his likeness and trademark."

It was also alleged that the video tarnished Knievel's image by using "vulgar, sexual and racially questionable content". West's lawyers argued that the video was satire, and therefore protected by First Amendment rights. As it transpired, the pair met in Florida in November 2007 and resolved the matter amicably out of court, just days before Knievel's death at the age of 69. Such a spat shows how disputes over trademarks can occur in all walks of life.

Mark of distinction

"A trademark can be a very powerful and valuable marketing tool," observes Chris Pulham, associate at Rosenblatt Solicitors' intellectual property (IP) and IT department. "Just think how many people around the world recognise the Nike swoosh or the Coca-Cola logo."

A trademark symbolises an organisation's brand identity, its values and quality. "That is why trademarks need to be safeguarded," adds Pulham. "If someone sells inferior goods by using branding that is similar to yours, it can seriously damage the goodwill [reputation] you have built up."

You can apply to register words, slogans, logos, shapes, domain names – even colours. However, "a trademark must be distinctive for the goods and services provided – not deceptive or contrary to law or morality," explains John Hamilton-Jones, deputy head of UK examinations at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), the official government body responsible for granting IP rights in the UK. "If your trademark meets these requirements, you might want to apply to register it. The UK IPO will decide whether it is acceptable under the 1994 Trade Marks Act and associated Rules. Your trademark does not have to be registered, but protecting an unregistered mark will rely on the common law of 'passing off'."

Passing off

Passing off is a form of fraud by which someone tries to sell their product by deceiving buyers into thinking it is another company's product. Damages can be won if the claimant can prove their goodwill exists; that the defendant made a misrepresentation likely to deceive; and that the misrepresentation damaged the claimant's goodwill.

Protection from passing off exists without the claimant having to register a trademark, although such cases are often difficult to prove. If the claimant has registered their trademark, there is an automatic right to sue for trademark infringement.

To register in the UK, you complete and return a TM3 form to the UK IPO. Registration involves a non-refundable fee – £200 to apply to register a trademark in one category [class] of goods or services and £50 for each extra class. When you apply to register a trademark, you must include a list of all goods and services on which you will use the mark.

"We examine applications to ensure goods and services are classified correctly," explains Hamilton-Jones. "We also consider whether the trademark is deceptive, sufficiently distinctive, or contrary to the Act or Rules and search for any earlier conflicting UK, EC or international trademarks that are protected in the UK or the EU. We then send applicants a report identifying any objections and potential conflicting marks." Applicants then have two months to overcome any problems.

Notifications go automatically to the holders of marks protected specifically in the UK and also to those of marks protected at EU level who have asked to receive such notifications. If accepted, the trademark is published online in the Trade Marks Journal. There then follows a three-month period during which oppositions may be filed. If there are none, the trademark is registered. It lasts for ten years, but can be renewed. Once a mark is registered, it is still possible for an application to be made for it to be invalidated or revoked.

World view

Many more UK businesses now sell overseas, while the volume of overseas businesses looking to sell in the UK continues to grow.

Selling overseas is made all the more easier by the internet, but this potentially poses additional trademark threats. "You're faced with more competitors – and more potential for the more unscrupulous ones to rip off your brand," says Rosenblatt's Pulham. There is also a greater chance of unknowingly infringing someone else's trademark, so it is important to check.

"A trademark can only be protected in jurisdictions in which it is registered," says Pulham. "If your trademark is only registered in the UK, you have to make applications in each jurisdiction in which you intend to sell. You need to be sure you are fully protected in all those markets."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.