Car Wars – Enterprise triumphs in ‘E-branding’ war16th December 2014
Car rental company Europcar has been found liable of trade mark infringement after the High Court said its branding is too similar to rival business Enterprise’s. The judgment confirmed car rental firm Europcar’s logo featuring a large lower case ‘E’ did constitute trade mark infringement and unfair advantage of market leader Enterprise’s logo featuring the same letter.
The decision acts as a timely reminder to brand owners of the need to register trade marks to protect business critical IP assets. In this case both marks had a very generic visual and concept base (i.e. the letter shared ‘E’). The Court held there was ‘not a great deal’ of similarity between the two logos. However the Court explained whilst the different logo styling made a likelihood of confusion less probable, an average consumer could still confuse the two marks if not making a ‘side by side’ comparison.
Enterprise’s claim succeeded partly because of evidence of actual confusion but crucially also because it has effectively protected and used its ‘E’ logo as a registered trade mark as part of its brand portfolio. By registering the trade mark the business gave itself protection and a competitive advantage which otherwise would have been unavailable to it. The use of “shorthand” brands and social media tags is increasingly common and therefore the Court’s decision is great news for brand owners, particularly those in the digital space. This decision follows Hamlins recent success in the Court of Appeal protecting its client’s brand against a third party competitor’s use of FINE.
Matthew Pryke is a Partner, Commercial & IP Solicitor and brand protection expert. As well as successfully leading the recent Fine & Country case in the Court of Appeal he has advised on the protection of terms such as GRAND PRIX, FABERGÉ & NEW LOOK.