Monday, 18 July 2011

Bucks Fizz: dispute over group's name

It happens in the best of circles: members of a popular music combination have fallen out over the use of the name. The latest is Bucks Fizz, Eurovision winners in 1981 (a matter about which I will be respectful, in light of the result in 1997 and in particular the antecedents of the writer of the winning song that year) as a foursome, three of whom are still performing under the name "The Original Bucks Fizz" to the displeasure of the fourth, who has his own group which uses the name - and describes itself as "the official Bucks Fizz" - and importantly has the trade mark, or at least the owner of the trade mark (one of its members). (Between the two modern incarnations and the original there is not an apostrophe to be seen.) Oh, and neither will I be scathing about Bucks Fizz insofar as the lyrics to many of their songs were written by Pete Sinfield - unlikely as that might seem.

The Guardian reports that a Hearing Officer at the Intellectual Property Office (or The Original Patent Office, as it might be called) is seised of the matter (well, even Guardian Law didn't put it quite like that), a hearing has taken place and he will give his decision in a few weeks. It says that the trio's solicitor had told the hearing officer that there is a verbal agreement about the use of the name, but not whether it's a written verbal agreement or an oral one.

On the basis of the Saxon decision [2003] FSR 39 the name and goodwill would be assets of the partnership (a partnership at will, if not a formally constituted one) and would therefore be dealt with along with other partnership assets - though I don't know whether they were likely to be considered a partnership. There doesn't seem to be a sufficiently old Bucks Fizz company on the register, even a dissolved one - there's a Bucks Fizz Limited incorporated on 25 July 1997, a month after the trade mark application was filed, in the entertainment business, but that's 16 years too late really. Given that they were a manufactured band, a sort of musical SPV, it's reasonable to expect that the business structure received more attention than in most bands, so perhaps the ownership of the trade marks is clearer than usual. In any case, it's worth noting that a very similar dispute resulted in an injunction against an earlier spinoff back in the late 90s.

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