When we are waging war on Covid-19, what better to hear than that an icon of the Second World War has won her own battle – in court.
Halewood International Brands Ltd (Halewood) applied to register the trademark “Vera Lynn” in class 33 for alcoholic beverages and in particular, gin.
When the application was published, Dame Vera Lynn opposed it, on the grounds that she had used the name for musical recordings, musical performances and charitable services since 1939 and that there would be confusion over whether Dame Vera had endorsed Halewood’s gin. She said that Halewood had no permission not use her name and they were trying to use her name and reputation to sell their goods.
Dame Vera did not have a registered trademark for her name so had to use the common law of passing off and provisions of the Trade Marks Act which justified oppositions to a trademark application.
Halewood sought to argue that there would be no confusion, because Dame Vera did not endorse any products, that Dame Vera had any goodwill in the name and that there was no bad faith in making their application. Not surprisingly, they failed on all fronts.
The court had no difficulty in finding that the three elements of passing off had been established: Dame Vera Lynn had a reputation and goodwill, there was a misrepresentation (of association or endorsement) which did or could lead to deception and there was a likelihood of damage from that misrepresentation. In essence, Halewood’s application for Vera Lynn could not proceed because Dame Vera already had an unregistered trademark.
An interesting point in the case was that Halewood sought to rely on Cockney rhyming slang, referring to “Vera Lynn as “gin” in a similar vein to “Ruby Murray” for “curry” and “Lionel Blair “ as “nightmare”, but that was rejected as Pete Tong (“wrong”).