Trade Mark Infringement? It’s “Easy”

11 October, 2018
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

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It has recently been reported that easyGroup Ltd (of ‘EasyJet’ fame) has threatened to sue Netflix in respect of the online streaming service’s comedy series “Easy”, claiming that its title infringed easyGroup’s trade mark for the word “Easy”.

Articles have appeared online, hastily denouncing easyGroup’s claim as misguided or too bizarre for words: how could the public confuse a low-cost airline with a Netflix comedy series?

A Netflix spokesperson was reported as saying: “We’re looking into it but think viewers can tell the difference between a show they watch and a plane they fly.”

The verdict

So, is it pie-in-the-sky litigation? Not quite. There does appear to be at least the grounds for a claim if we put to one side possibly the most well-known of easyGroup’s trade marks ‘EasyJet’, and instead focus on the “Easy” European trade mark in isolation.

EasyGroup’s trade mark covers (amongst other goods/services): “…information relating to entertainment and education, provided on-line from a computer database or the Internet; entertainment services provided on-line from a computer database or the Internet; educational information provided on-line from a computer database or the Internet…”

So, arguably these services could cover Netflix’s use of the word, and may be sufficient for easyGroup to launch an action. However, it remains to be seen whether easyGroup could establish a likelihood of confusion between its services and the Netflix show, or prove that the comedy series has taken unfair advantage of the trade mark’s goodwill and reputation, necessary to be successful at trial; that is for a court to decide.

What can we learn from this?

Regardless of the merits of the easyGroup claim, it’s generally recommended that searches are carried out at the outset for conflicts with existing trade marks (registered and unregistered), before a particular brand, logo or name is used.

“Innocent mistake” or oversight is not a defence to trade mark infringement, and it can be very costly to be forced to undertake an embarrassing rebranding exercise in the future if you get it wrong. Get it wrong, and all you’re doing is investing resource in building goodwill and reputation in someone else’s brand.

Further reading

If you wish to know more, or to speak to us about how we could help you, you will find further guidance on tackling copycats here and by contacting the commercial disputes team.

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