Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Assos, Asos and the "own name" defence

According to WIPR, Assos (a Swiss clothing manufacturer) is appealing against the Court of Appeal's April Fool's Day judgment (Maier v Asos [2015] EWCA Civ 220) holding that although the marks in suit were similar, and there was a likelihood of confusion and damage to the claimant's mark, Asos (an online retailer) could rely on the "own name" defence under section 11 of the Trade Marks Act. Read the WIPR report: there is no point in my paraphrasing it here, and I cannot direct you to the BAILII report because it is not online yet. At the same time, marvel at the WIPR's author's inability to identify members of the judiciary by their correct titles. What amateurs!
Assos are proposing to appeal to the Supreme Court, according to their solicitors Bird and Bird, and one can see why they might. Surely, despite cases which say otherwise, the "own name" defence was never intended to apply to company names which can so easily be invented to suit a particular purpose. However, that particular point (subject to what I find in the judgments in the Court of Appeal when they are published) seems to have become part of the corpus of trade mark law.
Of course, the defence is subject to the proviso that the use has to be in accordance with honest practices in industrial and commercial matters. That must be the key issue in this case, notwithstanding that Sales J seems to have based his dissenting judgment on logical restrictions on the scope of the defence.

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