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Easygroup Ltd V Easy Fly Express Ltd and Anor (2018) EWHC 3155 (ch)

Written by Laura Cannon- Solent University student on 07 December 2018

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In November 2018 the approved judgement given by Mr Justice Arnold was released on arguably one of intellectual property law’s most controversial cases of this year. The claimant is the entrepreneur and founder of the company ‘Easygroup limited’ which is well known for the airline ‘Easyjet’.  There are two defendants in this case the first being ‘Easy Fly Express Limited’ which is a company based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The second defendant is Mr Chowdhury who is the chairman of ‘Easy Fly’ and also the registrant of the domain name ‘www.easyfly-express.com’.

This case was brought about because the claimants alleged that “the defendants use of the signs amounts to infringement of a number of registered trademarks and passing off”. Secondly Easygroup contends that ‘the similarity between the signs and the claimants registered trademark, particularly the ‘Easyjet’ and ‘Easyflight’ marks, are striking, and the defendants have imitated ‘Easygroups’ distinctive get up’.  

Mr Justice Arnold then goes onto explain the applicable principles to be applied if the case is to be successful. The basic criteria was established in the case of AK Investment CJSC V Kyrgyz Mobile Tel Ltd (2011) UKPC 7, (2012) 1 WLR 1804 by Lord Collins of Mapesbury. They can be summarised as follows. First, the claimant must satisfy the court that, in relation to the defendant to be served with the proceedings, there is a serious issue to be tried on the merits of the claim i.e. a substantial question of fact or law or both. This means there has to be a real prospect of success on the claim.

Secondly, the claimant must satisfy the court that there is a good arguable case and that the claim against the defendant falls within one or more of the classes of case for which leave to serve out of the jurisdiction may be given (often referred to as gateways). Thirdly, the claimant must satisfy the court that in all the circumstances, England is clearly or distinctly the appropriate forum for the trial of the dispute and that in all the circumstances the court ought to exercise its discretion to permit service of the proceeding out of the jurisdiction.

For the claimants to have a real chance of success they must prove the signs use. It is explained that in order for the use of a sign to qualify as use in the UK or in the EU which infringes a UK or EU trademark, or amounts to passing off, the use must be targeted at the UK or elsewhere in the EU. The defendants argued that the claimants did not have a real prospect of success because the acts of ‘Easy fly’ were not targeted at the UK or anywhere else in the EU.

The defendant Mr Chowdhury explained that ‘Easy Fly’ is a small cargo airline which on average only flew 2.5 flights a week. 98% of those flights were domestic and only flew in Bangladesh. The airline has recently undertaken a few more flights outside Bangladesh to places such as Hong Kong but never anywhere in the EU and has no plans to do so because it would be an unviable cost.

Mr Chowdhury also went onto explain that the bulk of his business involved transporting live shrimp fry within Bangladesh. In regards to his website he explained that a customer had never reached his website through the claimant’s website. The claimants argued that the defendants were trying to target the UK because the website and facebook page were in English. Mr Justice Arnold was unimpressed with this argument as Mr Chowdhury went onto explain English is a widely spoken language in Bangladesh. As a result of this Mr Justice Arnold acceded to the defendant’s application and therefore dismissed the claimant’s arguments.

This verdict of this case is fairly surprising because although it is clear the two airlines are different in what they provide the defendants mark ‘Easy Fly’ is very similar to the Claimants mark ‘Easyjet’ in colour and also in font. To some it may cause initial confusion as they are so similar however because the defendants show no intention of targeting the UK or the EU this is the reason for the verdict. To read the full case and verdict click on the link below!

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2018/3155.html&query=(easygroup)

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