US lawyers for Vogue publisher Conde Nast have written in high dudgeon to the Mail on Sunday’s ‘You’ magazine complaining of ‘virtually indistinguishable’ typefaces and ‘confusion on the news stand’.
Who: Conde Nast & Associated Newspapers
When: March 2006
It was reported in Media Week that lawyers in the US representing "Vogue" publishers Conde Nast, had written to Associated Newspapers in the UK about the Mail on Sunday "You" magazine.
The problem was the covers. Click here for examples.
Conde Nast claimed that the "You" masthead typeface was "virtually indistinguishable" from that used for "Vogue".
Conde Nast also complained that the cover of "You" as a whole could be confused with Vogue on the news-stand. Another point of confusing similarity, Conde Nast alleged, was "You"'s use of a fashion model on its front cover to indicate the fashion-related topic on which the issue in question focuses.
The Mail on Sunday's managing director was reported as having no intentions of making any change to plans for "You" as a result of the letter in question.
Why this matters:
This is not the first and will certainly not be the last time that publishers of competing magazines have exchanged allegations of sharp practices and "look-alike" covers and mastheads.
Conde Nast's two potential causes of action in the English Courts would be passing off and copyright infringement. As regards copyright, Conde Nast face a steep incline. This is because, for most typefaces, copyright cannot be infringed other than by actually selling the matrices for the typeface's mass reproduction, for instance by way of typeface software.
As regards other elements of the respective magazine covers, it is difficult to see any other substantial reproduction of whatever copyright work might feature on the cover of "Vogue" unless one particular issue of "You" happens to use an image which is so very close to an image that previously appeared on "Vogue" to constitute a reproduction of a substantial part of the "Vogue" visual.
So far as passing off is concerned, Conde Nast's argument, for instance, as to use of fashion models' pictures on the cover of "You" being confusingly similar, do not have any great appeal. Since when did Conde Nast have a monopoly on mugshots of fashion models on the cover of women's magazines?
We will have to wait and see whether Conde Nast takes this matter to the next stage and issues proceedings, but marketinglaw's prediction is that it will not.