14 June 2018Trademarks

Financial Times wins second trademark round at UKIPO

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has dismissed an appeal made by a business owner and upheld a trademark opposition by the Financial Times (FT) newspaper.

Back in October 2017, Ann Corbett, a hearing officer at the UKIPO, upheld an opposition by the newspaper against the trademark application ‘brandft’ and refused its registration.

Catriona Brand, through her business Brand Financial Training, had applied for the mark in January 2016 for training and education services in class 41.

After the October 2017 decision, Brand appealed to an appointed person at the UKIPO, but the appeal was dismissed on June 4.

The FT had opposed the mark by citing two earlier registrations: a UK trademark for ‘FT’ (3,017,887) in class 41, filed in August 2013, and its EU trademark for ‘FT’ (13,169,735), which is registered for identical services (such as training services) in class 41 and was filed in August 2014.

Brand hit back, claiming an earlier right of ownership acquired through use of the mark ‘brandft’.

She had registered the domain name in August 2006, and the website became operational in January 2008 in conjunction with her business Brand Financial Training.

“It is notable that the application dates and registration dates of both of those registrations fall after the date of first use by the applicant of their brandft trademark,” said Brand’s counter-statement.

This claim was dismissed by hearing officer Corbett on the ground that Brand couldn’t provide a defence to the opposition without submitting a claim to invalidate the registrations of the FT’s earlier registered trademarks.

In her appeal, Brand argued that Corbett’s decision should be set aside for failing to adopt the principle that marks must be assessed for similarity holistically.

She also argued that the decision was wrong because Corbett had not accepted that the word ‘brand’ had a distinctive character which had been augmented through use (in relation to training and education services) and that this left no room for ‘ft’ to perform an “independent distinctive role”.

But the appointed person, Geoffrey Hobbs QC, said that the hearing officer correctly decided that ‘brandft’ would naturally be perceived as a juxtaposition of the elements ‘brand’ and ‘ft’.

“I take the view that no appreciable intellectual effort is required to recognise the two elements of which it is composed, whereas appreciable intellectual effort is required in order to synthesise them into a difficult-to-pronounce seven-letter word, imbued in its totality with no apparent meaning or significance, which happens to end with the letters ‘ft’,” said Hobbs.

On the second part of Brand’s argument, Hobbs didn’t accept that ‘brand’ had a distinctive character augmented by use.

Hobbs dismissed the appeal and ordered Brand to pay £1,500 ($2,015) to the FT, in addition to the £1,800 sum awarded by the hearing officer.

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