Interesting intellectual property law stories from 2013-2014

 

Intellectual property law has to continually adapt to cultural, scientific and technological developments. Unsurprisingly, it generates a stream of eye-catching and engaging developments.

Here are five of the most interesting IP news of the past year or so.

1) Jack Wills vs House of Fraser logo dispute

Clothing retailer Jack Wills is cock a hoop after triumphing in a bird-centred logo battle with House of Fraser.

Jack Wills pheasant logo

The swanky brand is aimed at affluent youngsters and its logo features the silhouette of a pheasant wearing a top hat and wielding a cane.

This was the subject of an alleged infringement by high-street giants House of Fraser, whose Linea range logo showed a pigeon clad in a bow-tie and top hat.

Jack Wills' pheasant logo

 

The owner of a trademarked logo can take action if another business has a similar logo that is likely to confuse consumers into thinking the two brands are the same.

This is the crucial point. If it wasn't two clothing companies, the case would have been thrown out.

House of Fraser argued that their pigeon, evoking city workers, was unlikely to be confused with Jack Wills’ upmarket country pheasant.

House of Fraser pigeon logo
House of Fraser's pigeon logo
  

Mr Justice Arnold at the London High Court took the side of Jack Wills, deciding consumers were not sufficiently hawk-eyed to differentiate between the two logos.

House of Fraser had already stopped using the pigeon logo. However, they could be liable for Jack Wills’ lost profits as well as a retrospective “licence” payment to them for use of the trademark. Be careful when designing a logo!

http://www.express.co.uk/

2) Tom Cruise sued for $1 billion in Mission Impossible lawsuit

Tom Cruise is among 13 defendants to a $1 billion dollar breach-of-copyright claim relating to the Mission Impossible series.

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol poster

Screenwriter Timothy Patrick McLanahan says he immediately recognised Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as based on his unfilmed screenplay “Heads On”.

McLanahan claims to have sent his script to the Hollywood film agency William Morris in 1998.

According to his allegations, the agents turned it down but went on to market the script across the world, resulting in it being used for the fourth instalment of the blockbuster spy series.

Ghost Protocol took in more than $700 million at the box office alone and was Tom Cruise’s highest grossing film of all time.


McLanahan initiated legal action in December 2013 against Cruise, his company Paramount Pictures, the producer JJ Abrams and a number of other parties. The story came to prominence last month after court papers were published by the gossip site Radar Online.

Cruise’s lawyer described the claim as “bizarre” and said it would be “quickly dismissed”, but as of writing this claim is yet to be thrown out.

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26064840

3) UK firm hopes to clean up with patented water-saving washing machine

UK company Xeros has launched a patented environmentally friendly washing machine based on revolutionary technology.

The machine uses absorbent plastic beads to draw out stains. This reduces consumption of water by seventy per cent; and of energy and detergent by half. The beads can be reused up to 500 times.

The machine has been internationally recognised as a landmark piece of green technology. It will be a finalist in the 2014 Edison Awards, which recognise innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy.

In addition to the washing machine, Xeros is developing water-saving cleaning products for industry. Applications include leather processing and other sectors with high current levels of water usage.

Xeros logo


The potential for this technology is enormous, with global water demand forecast to increase fifty per cent by 2050 (according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Investment in Xeros recently rose to a total of £16 million and the company floated on the London Stock Exchange Alternative Investment Market at the end of March 2014.

Innovators should obtain legal protection for their products early on. Failing to do so could mean losing out on profits and ability to influence the destiny of their inventions. Wisely Xeros have patented no fewer than 27 products.

http://www.xeroscleaning.com/

4) What’s in a name? Knives could be drawn in EU-US cheese negotiations

The EU agenda in forthcoming cross-Atlantic trade talks will include protection of European cheeses like parmesan, gruyere and gorgonzola in the US market.

Gorgonzola

Under the EU Protected Designation of Origin scheme, some foods cannot be named after a particular place unless they are produced there.

Protected foods include stilton, Melton Mowbray pork pies and champagne.

This aims to maintain the standard and reputation of regional specialities; and prevent consumers being misinformed. Take a look at our food IP map or our quiz on trademarks in food for more information.

This scheme only applies to sellers within the EU, but attempts have been made to expand its reach. The EU recently signed a bilateral agreement with Canada preventing, for example, the sale of cheese named “feta” by Canadian producers.  

Proposals for an agreement in the US will be met with fierce resistance. American producers argue that they have carved out a huge domestic market for European style cheeses and should be allowed to take full advantage of it. Moreover, many consider that some the American versions of classic European cheeses rival the originals in quality.

Producers of the thousands of local European cheeses will be anxious to ensure their products get privileged status in the American market. EU negotiators will need to be prepared for potential conflict on their own side.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/11/europe-trade-talks-cheese-back-parmesan-feta

5) Facebook in name dispute over Paper app

Facebook’s new app Paper has caused ructions with a tech start-up which has an app with the same name.

FiftyThree logo

FiftyThree launched Paper for iPad in 2012. The app, which allows users to make sketches, won the Apple iPad app of the year award.

Facebook’s Paper for iPhone app was released on 3rd February this year in the US and provides an alternative way to share and browse newsfeeds and photos.


Georg Petschnigg, FiftyThree co-founder, has made no secret of his irritation with Facebook. He blogged “There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own… Facebook should stop using our brand name”.

As yet Facebook has made no sign of changing the app’s name.

US Patent and Trademark Office records show that “Paper by FiftyThree” was submitted for a trademark in May 2012.

However, if FiftyThree were to pursue legal action this is not a guarantee of success - Facebook could argue that the two apps are for different purposes and so consumers are unlikely to be confused between them.

Facebook logo

Hopefully the firms will take advantage of their close links (a Facebook board member is a FiftyThree investor) to resolve things amicably.

http://www.businessinsider.com/paper-fiftythree-facebook-app-2014-2

Do you have a question about intellectual property? We work with IP solicitors all around the UK, and can help you with patents, copyright, passing off, trademarks and any other issue you might have. Call us on 0800 1777 162 or fill in a web-form and we will call you back.

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