easyGroup, the holding company for airline easyJet, has commenced legal action against Leicester pop band ‘easy life’ seeking to force the band to change its name.
In a claim lodged with the High Court, easyGroup claims that easy life has promoted their ‘Life's a Beach’ tour in 2021 and 2022 with a poster showing a plane in the style of easyJet's orange livery, but with the airline's name replaced with their own. easyGroup have also said that easy life had produced branded t-shirts bearing the orange livery and that the easy life website infringed their trade mark by using branding that was highly similar to the easyJet branding.
In a statement released via Instagram, the band said:
‘They’re forcing us to change our name or take up a costly legal battle that we could never afford. Although we find the whole situation hilarious, we are virtually powerless against such a massive corporation.’
In response to this, easyGroup have issued a statement via their website:
‘…It needs to be clearly understood that Mr Matravers and his band are signed up to Universal Music, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. Even if they were a small business, which they are not, easyGroup Ltd has to take legal action now to stop them from growing their deceit. Small brand thieves left unchallenged become big brand thieves and a major source of confusion for the consumer…’
Commenting on the story, Contentious Intellectual Property Partner, Jill Bainbridge, says:
EasyGroup have registered trade mark protection for the mark “easy”, covering a wide range of goods and services. In order to be capable of being registered, a mark must be distinctive and not descriptive of the goods and services for which it is registered. Some of their registrations cover the word alone and some cover it in logo format. Whilst words such as “easy” may not seem very distinctive they may be when considered in relation to particular goods or services. Logos can also help make marks such as 'easy' more distinctive.
The dispute between easy life and EasyGroup could be regarded as a David v Goliath situation, but from easyGroup's perspective, if they left what they believe is an infringement of their brand's IP unchallenged, it could open the door for others to follow suit, diluting their presence and reputation.
Infringement of a registered trade mark can include using a mark which is likely to be associated with the registered trade mark or where the registered mark has a reputation, using an identical or similar mark such that it takes unfair advantage or is detrimental to the reputation or distinctive character of the registered mark.
easyGroup, founded in 1998 by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has previously sued other companies for infringing its ‘easy’ trade mark and has a section of its website titled ‘brand thieves’, which lists its international legal battles to protect the company’s intellectual property.
The case of easyGroup v easy life raises important questions about the scope of trade mark protection and the rights of smaller businesses against larger corporations. It remains to be seen how the case will be resolved, but it is a reminder to businesses of all sizes to take steps to protect their intellectual property.