I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


9 May 2014

The only way is Essex: an infringement ?

I saw in today's Metro free newspaper that a fish and chip shop in Ongar, The only way is Fish, has been accused of infringing the rights of TV show The only way is Essex. It is supposed to be a reality show (though I must admit it looked scripted to me) about attractive, young, prosperous people in Brentwood, Essex.

According to the article, the letter they received said that Lime Pictures had copyrighted the use of "The only way is..." The shop was also said to be using a similar logo.

I see three puzzles here. I am not a lawyer or patent attorney, and these are my understandings of UK law.

(1) You cannot, in the UK, apply to copyright something. You use it and then assert it.

(2) You cannot assert copyright over a sentence, or over a title of a book or a show. You can, however, register trade marks for specific goods or services (a subtly different area of intellectual property).

(3) Lime Pictures has registered The only way is Essex for numerous activities, but not for Class 43, which includes catering services.

The company is on sounder ground if they claim that the shop is trading off the reputation of the show, or using the logo unfairly. Even if the big company does not suffer, they rarely like a small business being (as they would see it) cheeky. They have gone to a lot of trouble publicising the mark, and tend to resent anyone cheapening their image and -- as they see it -- exploiting the work that they have done. They also tend to have deeper pockets.

There are 8 UK and one pan-European registrations (EU12637591, which lists items as required within many classes). Here is the logo as in that EU trade mark:

The UK registrations use a different version:

It is this general look that the shop has -- unwisely, I would suggest -- used. An article in today's Daily Mail shows the look.

One for the lawyers, of course, but my thoughts are that using both the phrase, and the look of the logo, makes it clear that the similarities are not accidental, and that potential customers will be reminded of the show (which takes place in nearby Brentwood). "Passing off", I suspect, is what can be claimed here. The general principles are discussed in the Wikipedia article on passing off.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this information, sometimes the same fish and chip shop is visited on the towie tour.