Nando’s vs. Fernando’s: The brand making claims of trademark infringement
The legal positionTrademarks protect brands. When you register a trademark, the law gives you the exclusive right to use that trademark in relation to the products and services you have registered it for. If another business uses a brand that is identical or confusingly similar to the registered trademark, they are said to be infringing the brand owner’s intellectual property rights. This gives the brand owner the right to stop them. They can force the infringer to rebrand and also claim compensation for the losses that they have incurred (if they can prove, for example, they have lost sales). Alternatively, they can claim an account of profits. That is the amount of money the infringer has made from copying the brand or trading off the back of brand owner’s reputation. Small business owners often claim this is unfair. They suggest that the larger business is obviously threatened? by them and claim that they’re not really doing any harm so should be allowed to continue. But that’s not their decision to make. Businesses invest a great deal of money into building their brands and customer loyalty. The law protects this investment by allowing brand owners to register trademarks. The trademark owner then has a choice about what they want to do. it’s entirely up to them if they want to stop someone else from building a business off the back of their reputation. We saw the two extremes of this in another recent case when a convenience store was forced to change its name from ‘singhsbury’s?. Sainsbury’s took a strict view and asked them to rebrand. When they changed the name to Morrisinghs, Morrisons said they didnt mind and wished them well. Just because a small business has been threatened with trademark infringement, it doesnt mean that they have to immediately rebrand. If we look at the Nando’s versus Fernando’s case, the name is not an identical copy. This means that Nando’s has to prove that customers are likely to be confused between the two restaurants or think that there’s an association between them. As a Nando’s regular, I wouldnt be confused by the two if it was just the name that was being used. However, in this case, it seems like other trademarks or elements of the Nando’s brand were also being used, so this strengthens the case against Fernando’s. __________________________________________________________________________________
Family-run coffee company takes on Coca-Cola in trademark dispute A family business in Devon could face a big re-branding bill after fizzy drinks giant Coca-Cola threatened it with legal action if the owners don’t change its name. __________________________________________________________________________________ If Fernando’s really wanted to use that name, they should have made an extra effort to ensure all other aspects of the brand were easily distinguishable from those of Nando’s. This would mean there was less chance of confusion and they would have a much stronger defence against claims of trademark infringement. When it comes to trademark infringement claims (or any legal dispute for that matter), prevention is always better than cure. This means that small business owners should take care before naming their new business, products or services. For guidance on creating a new brand, please take a look at my previous article, Overcoming branding issues for a new business. When you have an idea for a new brand, the first thing you should do is carry out a search for any pre-existing brands that are likely to cause a problem. The owner of Fernando’s claims that the inspiration for the name was a TV game show. However, with trademarks the inspiration for the name is irrelevant. The law looks at the brand itself, not the inspiration behind it.