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14 January 2015Trademarks

Europcar stalls after Enterprise trademark dispute

Car rental company Europcar has been found liable of trademark infringement after a UK court said its branding is too similar to rival business Enterprise’s.

The English High Court ruled that Europcar’s ‘e’ logo was too close to that of Enterprise, which also uses the letter.

Enterprise had accused Europcar of infringing its Community trademark (CTM) number 9374497.

The CTM, a figurative mark for the letter ‘e’, was registered in 2010 and covers vehicle rental and leasing services.

In the judgment, published on January 13, Justice Arnold said that Enterprise’s ‘e’ CTM had an “enhanced distinctive character” as a result of its use in relation to vehicle rental services.

“In the field of car rental it [the ‘e’] is ‘short hand’ for Enterprise—a brand in its own right, much in the same way that the McDonald’s ‘M’ is a shorthand for them in the fast food industry,” Arnold wrote.

Arnold added that there was “clear evidence” of a “significant level of confusion” between the Enterprise and Europcar logos.

“Such confusion had been caused since Europcar introduced its own lower-case ‘e’ logo [in December 2012] and there was evidence that, during 2013 and 2014, Europcar customers appeared to have mistakenly boarded the Enterprise shuttle buses at Heathrow Airport,” Arnold found.

Simon Chapman, partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, which represented Enterprise, said: “The result is re-assuring for brand owners, particularly those who have adopted ‘short-hand’ logos for use in the digital space.”

He added: “If such use is sufficient for consumers to identify that logo with a brand that provides a particular service, then the brand owner may be able to enforce those rights against third parties.”

Jim Burrell, European senior vice president at Enterprise, said the company had invested heavily in the Enterprise brand in Europe over recent years.

“Customers have the right to know who they are buying from, and what that company stands for, which is why our brand matters so much,” he said.

Europcar did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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