Is this end of Glee? Club owner's court victory could see hit show banned from UK screens
Published 10/02/2014 | 08:20
IT'S a smash hit television show – much loved by millions of fans around the world.
But a Northern Ireland man could be responsible for the hit US show Glee being removed from UK screens after winning a classic David and Goliath battle against its owners.
Mark Tughan scored a surprise court victory when he sued 20th Century Fox over the hit-making show's name which is the same as his chain of comedy clubs.
The Belfast businessman took on the entertainment giant, arguing trademark infringement. He said the exuberant show – an all singing and dancing musical show about teenagers in a high school glee club had put off customers from going to his comedy clubs.
His Birmingham-based company Comic Enterprises Ltd hosts four comedy nights across the UK and registered The Glee Club trademark name in 1999. Mr Tughan said he was stunned to discover Glee while flicking through the channels in 2010.
He added: "We knew that we had a problem. As a small independent company we had no way of competing against the advertising and marketing might of the Fox Corporation and knew that our brand and reputation for original and credible comedy and live music would be damaged."
The ruling means that as well as getting Glee banned, Mr Tughan could also get Glee merchandise and DVDs removed from UK shops.
Mr Tughan said he felt relieved.
"I didn't expect to lose. We suffered from confusion amongst the public. We also felt that having got a registered trademark, we were suffering illegally."
Judge Roger Wyand QC, presiding over the case, ruled that the show "diluted and tarnished" the comedy club's reputation and infringed on its trademark.
Judge Wyand said that Fox's continued use of the Glee name "cannot be in accordance with honest practices".
"The damage suffered by Comic Enterprises is caused by its venues being confused with the TV show and its potential customers being put off," he added.
A 20th Century Fox spokesman revealed the company is planning to appeal the decision and are "confident that as the case plays out, we will ultimately prevail".
Belfast-born Glee fan Emma McGuigan said she would be gutted if it was pulled off air.
She said: "Glee was one of the first programmes on TV to address current issues such as bullying, sexuality and self-image. To take it off air would be a major step backwards."
Glee stormed UK screens in 2010 taking up a prime-time slot on E4.The programme focuses on a group of teenagers in a high school musical club. While comedy and light-heartedness prevail on the show each episode often has a message at its heart. Since its inception it has enjoyed huge success with superfans calling themselves 'Gleeks'.