Trade Marks – Luxury Restaurant Dispels Association with Dog Food
Trade marks are an invaluable means of maintaining a bright shine on brands and protecting them against inappropriate associations. In one striking example, the owner of a luxury restaurant won an injunction against a dog food company that traded under a similar name.
The restaurant had traded successfully for 15 years, building up a well-heeled clientele, including many celebrities, and turning over about £14 million annually. Its name and logo were protected by UK and EU trade marks. Its owner launched infringement proceedings against the dog food company after the restaurant’s title was incorporated in the latter’s publicity material and web domain name.
The company argued that there was nothing unpleasant about its high-end products, which bore such appetising titles as braised pork and cheesy mash, and that there was no real risk of confusion amongst the restaurant’s clientele. In putting forward a so-called ‘own name’ defence, it argued that its business had been christened after its managing director’s own dog.
In rejecting the latter submission, however, the High Court observed that the dog was neither a party to the proceedings, a natural person nor a company. Upholding the owner’s claim, the Court noted the inherent tension between dog food and human food of any type, particularly that which was served in a high-quality restaurant. Such an association would tarnish the image or reputation that the restaurant had established over many years.
The Court concluded that the owner’s attempt to make the company change its name was unjustified. However, it issued an injunction requiring the company to cease using the restaurant’s name in connection with its dog food products anywhere in the UK or Europe.