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Court Rules Skype too Similar to Sky

After ongoing battles between Sky and Microsoft, a recent EU judgment has stated that Microsoft cannot trademark Skype’s name or bubble logo.

Microsoft had challenged an earlier ruling from 2005 when Sky complained that the Skype branding was too similar to Sky’s to be granted an EU-wide trademark.

Judges at the General Court of the European Union said, “Conceptually, the figurative element conveys no concept, except perhaps that of a cloud.

"[That] would further increase the likelihood of the element 'Sky' being recognised within the word element 'Skype', for clouds are to be found 'in the sky' and thus may readily be associated with the word 'sky'."

A spokesperson for Microsoft said that they were not intending to rebrand Skype, the legal challenge was only against the registering of the trademark.

Sky and Microsoft have been clashing for many years so this is nothing new, but the latest judgment could mean that, in theory, Sky could seek to pursue Microsoft for a licensing fee if they wish to continue to use the Skype branding. They could also block Microsoft from using the name altogether but, financially, a licensing fee looks to be more lucrative.

Trademarks are essential for companies in protecting intellectual property and original works. For big businesses, it’s a matter of brand awareness but for smaller companies it’s just as important. You don’t want a local competitor to use your logo or name to attract customers, just as you don’t want customers to confuse you with anyone else.

When considering a name or logo you will need to check that it isn’t something that is already trademarked by someone else. The gov.uk website has a trademark search tool that you can use. It’s important to do this because if you use something that is already trademarked you could face legal proceedings, potentially costing a lot of money.

Logo design, as in Skype’s case, is also important. The Judges’ ruling that clouds being in the sky could confuse people when taken along with the name, into thinking that Skype could be a Sky product is an interesting one. Just by using certain images or representations you could fall foul of someone else’s trademark. Again, best to check and make sure that your newly designed brand isn’t clashing with anyone else’s.

For legal advice about trademarks, whether you are creating one or being pursued for breaching one, our team of Intellectual Property Solicitors can help. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9052 or you can contact us online and we will call you back.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers are one of the largest UK law firms with more than 1,450 staff in 18 offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield, Merseyside, Derby and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.

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