Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Ulster firm wins trade mark battle with retail giant

A Belfast business has triumphed over retail giant Next after a David and Goliath legal battle over trade marks.



Next objected to the use of the name ‘Next Level Impact’, which the management consultants of that name wished to register as a trade mark.

Now the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in London has ruled that differences between the names of the businesses outweigh any similarities, leaving Next Level Impact free to register its name as a trade mark.

At the end of a lengthy judgment, the hearing officer at the IPO said it could “conclude without hesitation that there is no likelihood of either direct or indirect confusion between the respective marks even where identical services are involved”.

Next Level Impact runs programmes for the public and private sector, including the management analysis and planning programme for Northern Ireland’s Department for Employment and Learning.

The business had applied to the IPO in London to trade mark its name. But after notification in the Trade Marks Journal, Next filed an objection to the use of the name ‘Next’.

However, Next Level Impact argued that as it was a well-known retailer and that Next had no reputation in management consultancy it was unlikely the trade marks would be confused.

Martin Rice, managing director of Next Level Impact, said: “I didn’t expect opposition from Next as we operate in two distinct business environments.

“We are not retailers and they are not leadership or management consultants.

“Indeed our company name — apart from the use of the word Next — doesn’t reflect or infringe upon what they do, nor are we in competition with them.”

Next said it did not wish to comment.

Background

Retail giant Next lodged an objection to the plans by a small business consultancy to trade mark the name ‘Next Level Impact’, arguing it confused users of its services. However, the Intellectual Property Office ruled that there could be no risk of confusion between the two.

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