1 October 2018Trademarks

easyJet owner takes on Netflix for trademark infringement

easyGroup, the parent company of budget airline easyJet, has sued Netflix for trademark infringement over one of the streaming site’s comedy shows.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, owner of the easyGroup, claimed that the Netflix comedy series “Easy” infringes his company’s European trademarks (EUTMs).

In a claim form (pdf) filed on September 21 at the English High Court, Haji-Ioannou requested an injunction against Netflix preventing it from using the title “Easy” in the EU.

A claim form is the first step in a court dispute, preceding the filing of a complaint.

The comedy series, created by Joe Swanberg and starring Aubrey Plaza and Orlando Bloom, features “diverse Chicagoans fumbling through the modern maze of love, sex, technology and culture”.

Haji-Ioannou said in a statement: “I think this is a case of typically arrogant behaviour by a very large American tech company who never bothered to check what legal rights other companies have outside the US.”

He said that easyGroup owns the EUTM for the word ‘easy’ as well as an additional 1,000 trademarks with ‘easy’ as a prefix, including ‘easyHotel’ and ‘easyBus’.

Guy Wilmot, partner at London-based law firm Russell-Cooke, told WIPR that in order to prevent Netflix from using the title “Easy” within Europe, easyGroup must establish that there is a likelihood of confusion. He added that the company may also have to show that the use of the word would take unfair advantage of easyGroup’s brand, or that it is passing off on easyGroup’s goodwill.

Wilmot said that although easyGroup has a significant number of EUTM registrations, this does not necessarily mean that the company will succeed in its injunction request.

He explained that a trademark registration applies to specified goods and services, while goodwill attaches to an existing reputation.

“If easyGroup’s marks are not registered for TV or entertainment related services then easyGroup might struggle to establish infringement or passing off,” said Wilmot.

“easyGroup might need to rely on Netflix taking ‘unfair advantage’ of their marks (which does not require a likelihood of confusion, only that unfair advantage is being taken of a trademark’s reputation) or passing off, both of which could be difficult to establish given that easyGroup’s goodwill and reputation is in other areas,” he said.

“In either case, easyGroup would have to show that there is some connection made between consumers of the Netflix show and easyGroup’s brands.”

Wilmot concluded that Netflix would presumably ask the court at a later date to take into account the public policy consequences of granting the injunction in terms of its impact on freedom of expression.

A spokesperson for Netflix commented: "We're looking into it but think viewers can tell the difference between a show they watch and a plane they fly."

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More on this story

8 July 2019   EasyGroup, which owns brands including British-based airline easyJet, has succeeded in having a trademark invalidated at the UK Intellectual Property Office.
8 January 2020   easyGroup, the UK-based parent company of easyJet, has taken what it claims is a ‘pirate’ airline to court in the US, while also embroiling Skyscanner and Kayak in the dispute.
6 August 2021   EasyJet’s parent company has settled an infringement suit against regional airline Easyfly, according to a notice published by a Florida Federal Court.