The number of attempts by businesses to block a rival from registering a conflicting trade mark has hit a new high, jumping seven per cent to 2,296 in the last year, up from 2,146 the previous year. The increase is part of the broader trend for businesses to more robustly defend their brands and other intellectual property as businesses with a registered trade mark often try to block rivals from registering a conflicting trade mark by lodging a challenge to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Ben Mark, legal director, trademarks at RPC, said of the jump: 'Attempts to kill off a rival’s trade marks are becoming more common.'
'Strike first' approach
Recent actions from a range of high profile businesses such as EasyGroup, run by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Oxford University, and Rolex have seen action against competitors registering similar brands by blocking their trade marks. Challenges to trade marks include Ralph Lauren's successfully defence of their ‘RLX’ trade mark from opposition by Rolex which felt that the two would be confused. EasyGroup successfully stopped the trade mark ‘easyuni.com’ being registered as it would be confused with its brand whilst a Supreme Court judgment featured high profile fashion designer and business woman Karen Millen who lost the right to use the trade mark ‘Karen’ having sold her business to a consortium led by Baugur. Meanwhile Oxford University defeated Innovative Prosperity (UK) Ltd from registering ‘Oxford Business School’ to provide online educational courses. David Cran, partner at RPC, says: 'Firms are employing a ‘strike first’ approach when it comes to opposing a rival’s trade mark application. If they can stop an application being registered it can save them the need of having litigation through the courts later.'