Fed up with his customers complaining about the quality of IKEA furniture, Frank Arnold changed the name of his high street, family-run furniture shop to NoIKEA.
Who: IKEA and FR> Who: IKEA and Frank Arnold, proprietor of "No IKEA" Furniture stores
When: January 2001
Fed up with his customers complaining about the quality of IKEA furniture, (which he did not sell) Frank Arnold changed the name of his high street, family-run furniture shop to "NoIKEA." Lawyers for the Swedish retail giant were soon on the case, writing to Frank within days. They referred to the substantial reputation and goodwill in the UK in the IKEA trade mark and alleged that Mr Arnold was guilty of passing off. Frank is quoted as accepting he might well have to back down in the face of such a mighty opponent, though he says the name change has been good for business.
Why this matters:
Although it is now possible to register a trade mark for "retail services" the change was only recent ( see Newsnotes Stop Press item for November 2000) and in this case IKEA will have to rely on passing off or, assuming they have a registration of the mark IKEA in the UK in respect of furniture, trade mark infringement. On passing off their case will depend on whether they can show that Frank's new name amounts to a "misrepresentation. " This would be arguable if IKEA could persuade the court, perhaps with the help of survey evidence, that the "NoIKEA" name was likely to confuse punters into believing the Greenwich shop was connected to the Swedish behemoth. They would also have to show that this misrepresentation was likely to cause them damage in terms of,say, lost sales.
Historically the courts of Germany, for example, have taken as their benchmark in such cases the gullible consumer in a rush. The courts of England, however, eschew the "moron in a hurry" standard and plump for the relatively worldly wise, reasonably sensible person on the Clapham omnibus who is tuned in to the ways of traders and marketers. Is this animal going to believe Frank is part of IKEA and not go to IKEA as a result? Neither argument, some might say, is going to be plain sailing for the international retailer on these particular facts! If they have the relevant trade mark registrations, IKEA might do well to focus on trade mark infringement unless, that is, Frank decides to throw in the towel before things get interesting!