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Company Names Tribunal: first decision

18 December 2008

Following our recent bulletin relating to the new Company Names Tribunal, Coca Cola's claim, one of the first made under the new procedure, has now been heard.

The tribunal ruled that Coke Cola Limiteds name was sufficiently similar to the name Coca Cola, and that its use in the UK would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between Coca Cola and Coke Cola Limited. It therefore ordered that Coke Cola Limited change its name or appeal the decision by 3 January 2009.

The cost to Coca Cola of bringing the claim is unknown but it was awarded a contribution of £700 towards its costs by the tribunal. In addition, this decision has been given within a short time scale (just eight weeks from the claim being brought by Coca Cola), although this is due in part to the fact that Coke Cola Limited chose not to file a defence and contest the claim.

Prior to the inception of the Company Names Tribunal, Coca Cola would have had to rely on its rights of passing off and/or trade mark infringement in order to stop Coke Cola Limited from making the use of such name. These would have been likely to have taken a much longer period of time to resolve and attracted higher costs.

This result for Coca Cola highlights the helpful alternative to passing off and trade mark infringement proceedings which is now available to rights holders. The positive outcome will no doubt persuade other rights holders of the benefits, both in time and cost, of the new procedure and is likely to see the work of the tribunal increase substantially in the coming months.

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Declan Cushley

Declan Cushley

Partner and Head of IP and Commercial Group

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