20th Century Fox has lost the latest round in a UK appeal court battle against Comic Enterprises, a British comedy business operating comedy venues under the trade marked name ‘The Glee Club’.
Comic Enterprises first opened The Glee Club in Birmingham in 1994, and has branches in Cardiff, Nottingham and Oxford. It registered its trade mark in 1999, and brought legal proceedings against Fox in 2011, successfully arguing that the show breached its trade mark rights.
In its appeal, Fox quoted the Oxford English dictionary to contend that ‘glee club’ is a common phrase referring to choral singing groups, and that it would be a ‘disaster’ if it were forced to change its name. Rebranding the show would affect all repeats, DVD sales, stage show performances and downloads.
The High Court rejected Fox’s appeal and upheld the decision that the trade mark had been infringed by the US show, finding that ‘there exists a likelihood of confusion’ and that it was ‘fair and equitable’ to order Fox to cease using Glee as the title for its series.
The appeal court judges are set to consider whether EU trade mark laws affect the ruling and the case may yet be referred to the European Court. If ultimately unsuccessful in defending the trade mark infringement claim, Fox could spend millions in rebranding the show.
Mark Tughan, owner of the comedy and music venue chain, said he felt ‘vindicated’ by the latest decision in what he has described as a David and Goliath battle. In a statement, he said “Trademark law does not exclusively exist for the world’s largest companies, able to spend millions of pounds to protect their intellectual property, whilst simultaneously infringing the trademarks of others.”
We will keep you posted.