27 March 2018

easyGroup fails to prevent TM registration in UK

easyGroup has failed to prevent a trademark for an electric bicycle company from being registered.

The company is widely known for being the parent company of easyJet, although it has branched out into other areas of transport and hospitality.

In November 2016, Dennis Ware applied to register the trademark ‘ Ezibike’ at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) under classes 12 and 25, covering cycling-related products such as clothing, saddles, and water bottle cages.

easyGroup opposed the mark on the grounds that it is similar to five of its own trademarks.

The opposing company owns EU trademark number 10,584,001 for the mark ‘easyJet’; EU trademark number 15,871,554 for the mark ‘easyCoach’; and EU trademark numbers 10,735,561, 10,735,553 and 12,491,841 for the marks ‘easyBus’, ‘easyCar’ and ‘easyVan’, respectively.

easyGroup’s ‘001 and ‘561 trademarks cover class 39, in relation to various transport services.

The opposition was based on the claim that the word ‘Ezi’, which is part of the applied-for mark, is “phonetically identical to easy”. This, combined with the non-distinctive word “bike”, would lead the consumer to believe that the trademark is a brand extension, according to easyGroup.

Ware filed a counterstatement, highlighting that the spelling of the trademarks was different and that the sound at the beginning of ‘Ez’ “represents an electrical buzzing sound” reflecting an electric assisted bicycle.

In its evidence, easyGroup cited a witness statement from Christopher Griffin, chief executive of the Museum of Brands, which is a collection of renowned brands from the past.

Griffin said that the ‘easy’ brand covers a range of products and services outside of air travel (which the company is well-known for), such as ‘easyHotel’, ‘easyGroup’, and ‘easyOffice’.

Griffin said he “would expect there to be widespread knowledge of the ‘easy’ brand, because of the variety and number of ‘easy’ brands licensed or used by the easyGroup”.

While Oliver Morris, on behalf of the UKIPO, recognised that the trademarks in question are of a similar length and both begin with the letter E, he said that this is where the similarity ends.

With the exception of ‘Ezibike’ and ‘easyBus’ both containing the letter B, none of the other easyGroup trademarks contain the same letters and the risk of confusion is not significant enough.

“Visual similarity is extremely low for all of the comparisons,” said Morris.

Ware has been granted permission to continue with the trademark application.

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