1 April 2019Trademarks

UK court rebuffs ‘Trump TV’ trademark application

The English High Court has dismissed an appeal from UK-based Trump International which attempted to register a mark which was “plainly associated” with incumbent US president Donald Trump.

The company, which is owned by German national Michael Gleissner and has no association with Donald Trump, filed to register the ‘Trump TV’ mark in October 2016 for services in classes 38 (communications and broadcasting) and 41 (entertainment and education).

DDTM Operations, which manages IP rights formerly owned by US president Donald Trump, opposed the mark, alleging that the trademark application had been made in bad faith.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled that Trump International’s likely intention was “to gain some advantage deriving from the notoriety of Donald Trump” and formed “part of a series of abusive registrations” by Gleissner’s companies.

Having made a finding of bad faith, the UKIPO did not consider any other grounds of opposition raised by DDTM.

Trump International appealed the decision to the high court, arguing that the UKIPO hearing officer had shown bias in considering unrelated actions by Gleissner’s companies.

The company also argued that the officer had erred in not making any findings in relation to the other grounds of opposition, but still taking them into account when determining costs.

In its judgment, the court rebuked Trump International for raising accusations of bias against the hearing officer.

“Allegations of actual or apparent bias should not be made lightly, and they should not have been made in the present case”, the court said.

According to the court, Trump International’s attempt to register a mark “plainly associated with [Donald] Trump” required a “very clear explanation” against an accusation of bad faith.

Trump International should have presented evidence refuting allegations of bad faith, the court said.

When considering Gleissner’s past history, the court said that the evidence was “highly significant” and praised the hearing officer for not ignoring “relevant facts”.

The court also rejected Trump International’s request to file further evidence in the case, noting that it could have been filed with “reasonable diligence” during the initial proceedings.

UKIPO’s comptroller general of patents, designs and trademarks intervened in the case, expressing the office’s fear that behaviour of the sort exhibited by Trump International could “bring the trademark system into disrepute”.

The court advised that the UKIPO was entitled to “strike out” proceedings brought with an ulterior motive and that it was appropriate to exercise this power after making a finding of bad faith.

WIPR has contacted representatives of Gleissner for comment.

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