Is it as easy as it looks?
easyGroup, the holding company for a number of ‘easy’ companies including easyJet, easyHotel, easyBookings and many more, has welcomed a new member to its ever-growing family of easy brands: ‘easyNetworks’.
With a name like ‘Easy Networks’ it is no surprise that this Portsmouth-based telecoms company eventually appeared on easyGroup’s radar. easyGroup has a long history of trying to protect the ‘easy’ prefix and prevent others from trading on the its goodwill and reputation; according to its own website easyGroup has little tolerance for any ‘brand thieves’ attempting to piggyback of its name in any way. Some of the more recent examples include easyGroup’s pursuit of Netflix over its ‘Easy’ comedy series, its recent action against a Bangladeshi cargo operation called ‘Easyfly’ and its battle with ‘EasyRoomate’ over the infringement of its trade mark. It is clear that easyGroup takes the protection of its intellectual property rights VERY seriously and its arguably overzealous approach has often led to critics accusing it of corporate bullying.
So, when Easy Networks founder, Richard Gwilliam, was invited to speak with Sir Stelios, founder and creator of the ‘easy’ family of brands, it is no surprise that he thought the meeting would be about intellectual property and the use of brand names. However, rather than becoming embroiled in a legal battle over the use of the ‘easy’ prefix, Richard Gwilliam emerged from these talks with a new business partner.
The addition of Easy Networks to the family of ‘easy’ brands marks easyGroup’s first venture into the IT and telecoms sector. Branching out into different industries is part of easyGroup’s core business model; it invests in companies which remain standalone businesses while sharing the use of the ‘easy’ brand. The result is that is creates a vast network of companies all linked by branding rather than other any other defining feature.
The inclusion of Easy Networks into the ‘easy’ family means that it now benefits from the use of the branding associated with the easyGroup companies; a quick lick of paint (bright orange, obviously) completed Easy Networks transformation into ‘easyNetworks’.
Trade mark disputes are not always easily resolved; they can often be unpredictable and expensive and difficult to navigate. (If you do ever find yourself lost down the trade mark rabbit hole, you should consider instructing an IP solicitor to help you… and luckily for you I can think of a few who would be happy to help!)
Facing a huge company like easyGroup in a trade mark dispute can be challenging, particularly when it owns such a vast family of companies all using the same element in its branding – it makes the likelihood of confusion between marks much easier to establish and the dispute harder, but not impossible, to fight.
However, the case of easyNetworks demonstrates that not all trade mark disputes necessarily lead to court action. It is possible to resolve a dispute out of court, which is usually a more cost effective and less time-consuming option. In this instance, by actively engaging with the other party Easy Networks was able to build a new business partnership, gain investment and benefit from the use of the easily identifiable ‘easy’ branding.
If you do tumble own the trade mark rabbit hole and need some specialist IP advice, feel free to contact us here at Briffa by emailing [email protected] or calling us on 0207 288 6003 to book a free 30-minute consultation.
Written by Charlotte Murphy, Trainee Solicitor