A High Court judge granted an injunction on Tuesday 29e March preventing a Belfast taxi firm from infringing on a competitor’s trademark rights.
Two companies, fonaCAB and Value Cabs, had been providing their taxi services under the brands ‘fonaCAB’ and ‘Value Cabs’ for many years in Belfast. In January 2020, a competitor by the name of Michael Hicks set up a taxi company under the name FonaValue and 7 Seater Taxi Ltd. Since then, it has operated a taxi service under the brand “FonaValue”.
Since “FonaValue” merges the first words of the established brands “fonaCAB” and “Value Cabs”, there were concerns about confusion in the market. When these concerns were raised by fonaCAB and Value Cabs, a payment of £2.5 million was reportedly demanded by FonaValue. In response to this request, the two companies sued FonaValue for trademark infringement and passing off.
In granting the injunction, Justice McAlinden said:
“This is a totally brazen and blatant attempt to extort money. In view of what I consider to be the most reprehensible conduct of the second defendant (Mr Hicks), I have no hesitation in rendering a prescription in the terms requested. A clear message needs to be sent: if people try these stunts, they will backfire badly.”
This decision is useful in that it serves as a warning to opportunistic companies trying to take a shortcut and build on the good reputation, fame and success of an established competitor. Although a company may believe that such shortcuts are a smart and enterprising way of doing business, in reality they cause more trouble than they are worth, as the defendant is often forced to switch brands. and faces a heavy litigation bill.