If asked to guess what might be on offer at ‘Highland Fashion Week’ I would almost certainly have expected fashion with a heavy tartan influence. In fact Grace Hay the owner boutique store Grace Lily Lingerie in Nairn, East of Inverness Scotland was planning a community event to showcase the finest lingerie the area has to offer. Not much tartan in evidence from the pictures online but that, oddly enough is not the issue in this particular trade mark tale.
In order to put the show on solid legal footing Grace applied for a trade mark for ‘Highland Fashion Show’. It transpires a similar show had been held under that name in 2015 and Grace wanted to continue with that and relaunch the event. An application to the UK Intellectual Property Office was made. So far so good one would have thought. However Grace’s three year battle to secure the name has only just ended. Grace now has a ruling in her favour allowing her to run events but it’s been quite a journey. Grace describes it as a great weight off her shoulders and is excited to be able to launch the event at last. Her initial reaction to an objection raised against Grace’s application by a US TV network, Fashion One was one of surprise. The network operates a number of fashion-based digital TV channels and broadcast to 400 million subscribers worldwide. It owns the mark ‘Fashion Week’ and claimed that Grace’s application for Highland Fashion Week was too close to its own and would confuse customers. The Intellectual Property Office disagreed and found that based on the level of attention a consumer would pay to the words there was unlikely to be any confusion even if there was a possibility of association. This was not enough to prevent Grace’s mark proceeding to registration.
Often when small business owners are challenged in respect of an application they’ve made, they crumble. They will rightly be concerned about becoming embroiled in a dispute that will drain their time and risk costing them money in the event they do not succeed in overcoming the objection.
This ruling should give comfort to small business owners that despite the intricacies of trade mark law the dispute process at the Intellectual Property Office consistently delivers the correct result based on the evidence and the law. The ruling is a good advert for our trade mark system, a personal triumph for Grace and also encouraging for all small business owners everywhere. So often big business play on the fears of small business as to the costs of standing up for their rights to force them to change their plans. We need more people like Grace to take a stand to send clear messages to big business that their tactics may not work.
Briffa are experts in all aspects of trade mark law and practice. If you would like to discuss how best to obtain protection for your business and brand, or if you would like to discuss a potential infringement claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on email@example.com or 020 72886003 and one of our specialist IP lawyers will be happy to have a consultation with you without charge.
Written by Margaret Briffa, Solicitor