The claim arose out of the claimant’s ownership of the playboy.london domain name. The defendant, as owner of the world famous PLAYBOY trade marks, relied on a decision under the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) stating the domain should be transferred to it. The court held it did not have the authority to overturn the UDRP decision except in the case of manifest error, which was not relevant to this claim.
Evidence adduced at trial showed the claimant intended to use the domain name to chronicle the childhood and adolescence of his children. Access to the website would be restricted to users who had been given login details by the claimant. Accordingly, the court found there could be no trade mark infringement because the claimant was not selling any goods or services from the website. However, the judge ruled the claimant could not rely on the groundless threats provisions of the Trade Marks Act 1994.
The claimant claimed his use of the word PLAYBOY in the domain name was an ironic reference to himself. The judge concluded this irony relied on the reputation and goodwill in the PLAYBOY mark. Accordingly, the claimant’s use of the domain name would lead to passing off.
The court held it did not have the power to overturn the UDRP decision and the application for a declaration was an attempt to circumvent the court’s lack of jurisdiction. The judge further reasoned that granting a declaration stating there had been no trade mark infringement would not serve any useful purpose, since a similar declaration in relation to passing off could not be made. On this basis the claim was dismissed.
The primary objective of the recent changes were to improve the litigation procedures and reduce litigation costs and, as a result, to increase access to justice in IP matters with special focus on individual claimants and SMEs who struggled financially to fight IP cases. Yassine Lefouili, one of the co-authors of the report, affirms the positive developments following the changes resulting in qualitative and quantitative evidence that there has been large increase in the number of intellectual property cases.
Introducing the report, IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe praised the changes and confirmed that small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs now have better chances to actually defend their IP rights. This is good news, especially following a recent FSB research we wrote about in our article “SMEs And IP – FSB Reports They Struggle To Protect Their Intellectual Property” which revealed the struggle of SMEs and start ups to protect their IP.
The improvements come as a result of the costs cap and the 2010 active case management process. These amendments speed up the litigation process and also serve as an awareness tool for litigants to understand better their exposure before filing a claim. What is more, as Chloe Smith underlines for the Law Gazette, changes have opened up IPEC for patent and trade mark attorneys who are now able to represent their clients in court more often.
This suggests that reforms have paid off and, as the PatLit suggests, with the introduction of the Small Claims track we might as well have even better news in a following report.