In March 2020, easyGroup, famous for the easyJet airline, applied to invalidate the registered UK trade mark EasyBike, owned by LKQ CZ s.r.o.
In its invalidation action, easyGroup relied on its earlier trade marks for various “easy-“ brands such as “easyCoach”, “easyBus”, “easyCar” and, of course, “easyJet”.
The owner of the trade mark LKQ was able to bat off the invalidation action and keep its trade mark. Two key factors scuppered easyGroup’s arguments in the 66-page decision:
- The Hearing Officer found that easyGroup failed to plead and make out a “family of marks” argument which may have allowed it to show that its use of various “easy-“ marks has created a reputation in the “easy-“ prefix.
- While easyGroup was of course able to show an impressive level of reputation for airline services, the evidence demonstrates that this reputation sits in the brand “easyJet” as a whole and not in the prefix “easy-“. Therefore, the Hearing Officer found that consumers would not make the link between “EasyBike” and “easyJet”, especially considering the “EasyBike” registration did not cover airline-related goods or services.
In July 2022, LKQ struck back when easyGroup filed for the trade mark easyBike, opposing the application on the basis of its EasyBike registration.
The decision from the UKIPO handed down in September 2023 is another win for LKQ, resulting in easyGroup losing the entirety of its trade mark application.
Again, easyGroup hoped to rely on its reputation in a “family of marks”, this time interestingly as a shield and not a sword. The Hearing Officer was unconvinced by the evidence supplied by easyGroup to show use of various “easy-“ marks.
The evidence submitted was weakened by its general nature and lack of specific reference to the UK market. Further, the evidence did not show use of the “easy-“ marks in the same orange-background-white-font get-up as the applied-for mark, which undermined easyGroup’s argument that it owns a “family of marks” which are all in use. Essentially, the Hearing Officer felt the evidence didn’t show enough of a family resemblance between the marks.
The Hearing Officer concluded that there was a likelihood of confusion between easyGroup’s applied-for mark and LKQ’s registration, considering both marks contain only the word element “EASYBIKE” with relatively minimal stylisation differences.
The key moral to learn from this David-and-Goliath tale for any business is that the early protection of brands of interest should be a priority. It’s also important to remember that not all publicity is relevant publicity, no matter how impressive – at least in trade mark proceedings. Even the most famous of marks have a limit in enforcement.
We are watching this space to see whether easyGroup appeals the decision.