A train company has recently threatened legal action against a passenger who set up a parody Facebook account to mock issues with its customer service.
The dispute centres on the use of a spoof logo similar to the company's official branding.
Ordinarily, the best recourse for the rail operator would be to prove that its trademark has been infringed. While there are registered trademarks for its German-based parent, there is no registered trademark for Arriva Trains Wales, the subsidiary company in question.
The case is a stark reminder of the importance of registering a trademark to protect your business name, logo and brand. A registered trademark gives you exclusive use of the trademark for the goods or services it covers, and gives you the right to sue for trademark infringement under the Trade Marks Act 1994.
There are also other commercial advantages, such as the use of the trademark as security and the potential exploitation of the trademark through assigning or licensing it.
Should the company be unable to prove that there has been a breach of one of its existing trademarks, they will need to rely on the common law of passing off. This is evidentially harder to prove, as Arriva Trains Wales would need to establish that the parody amounts to misrepresentation which causes damage.
This is a costly and time-consuming process which assesses whether the parody causes confusion for the average consumer. The courts would look at whether a proportion of the public would be confused or deceived as a result of the defendant's misrepresentation.
Whatever happens, this particular satirical adaptation is far from funny from the company's perspective. Remember, protecting brand image and identity is crucial for the long-term integrity of your business.
For any questions regarding this article please get in touch with Chiara Howfield
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