Helping telehealth start-up ohealio enforce its trade mark rights

Helping telehealth start-up ohealio enforce its trade mark rights

Founded by Dr Bobby Prasad, an industry-leading professor of gastroenterology, ohealio is a telehealth start-up on a mission to help people with common gastrointestinal health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

Feeling frustrated by people trying to search for cures online, Bobby decided to develop an online platform that takes a long-term, holistic approach to the treatment of gut-related health issues, bringing together a multidisciplinary team comprised of GPs, consultants, and nutritionists. Once launched, ohealio will serve as a hub for patients, allowing them to seek a consultation, purchase blood/stool tests and over-the-counter/doctor prescribed medications. 

To support the launch of the platform, ohealio plans to invest heavily in promoting its brand. ohealio wanted to make sure that any investment in the brand is protected from the outset. The team understood that by registering a trade mark for their brand name, they would have the exclusive right to use their brand name. If a competitor uses the ohealio name or a confusingly similar name, ohealio will have the right to make a claim for trade mark infringement.

When asked why it was important that they registered their trade mark, Simon Stebbing, Chief Marketing Officer at ohealio, said:

We might be getting started with our business, but we wanted to take ownership of our brand name from the start. Building a solid reputation and brand presence is very important to us at this stage, and Harper James understood this completely.

As an Enterprise Plan client, ohealio receives one hour of legal support every month, as part of the subscription plan.

When asked why they opted for the Enterprise Plan, Lesley Mace, Head of Operations at ohealio, explained:

It’s important for us to seek out the right guidance and legal support, which is exactly what we’ve received working with Harper James. We chose the Enterprise Plan because it’s the most cost-effective and flexible option for us. As the business continues to grow, knowing that we have access to one hour of legal support every month is amazing.

Recently, ohealio used their accrued time to speak to one of our intellectual property lawyers when they came across another company with a very similar name providing telehealth services in the UK.

After an initial discussion with the Intellectual Property team, Intellectual Property associate, Gemma Pickavant, entered into discussions with the other company informing them that their use of a similar name was an infringement of ohealio’s trade mark, and requested that they cease using the name and pay ohealio’s legal fees.

Initially, the other company attempted to rely on the fact that ohealio had not started trading yet and therefore their trade mark was vulnerable to attack for non-use. What they did not take into consideration was the five-year grace period granted by the UKIPO, during which it is not a requirement for trade mark owners to use their trade mark. Therefore, the non-use defence being advanced by the other company was not a valid argument to make.

Recognising the weakness of their attempted defence and wishing to resolve the matter quickly rather than risk a lengthy legal dispute, both parties reached an agreement that the other company will rebrand, stop using the name and pay contribution towards ohealio's legal costs.

When asked what it was like working with Harper James, Lesley said:

I’ve never had to seek legal advice before, so it was important that we had lawyers we could trust. Gemma has been extremely helpful in explaining the legalities of the matter as clearly as possible, and I’ve been impressed with how quickly she has resolved the situation for us – it’s like having our very own in-house counsel!

Our Commercial and Data Protection teams have also provided legal advice to ohelio, about which Lesley commented:

As a business in a heavily regulated industry, it is important that we are compliant with the laws that apply to telehealth businesses that operate in the UK. The Commercial and Data Protection teams have helped us adhere to GDPR, data processing rules and regulations and have provided us with supplier contracts, ensuring the business starts from a strong legal footing.

Reflecting on working with ohealio, Gemma said:

Lesley and the team at ohealio have been extremely responsive and engaged with the entire process and have trusted our legal advice from the start. Part of the reason for our success in this case was ohealio trusting our judgment to point out the other company’s flawed defence in an amicable manner on the telephone, rather than aggressively highlighting it in written correspondence. The result for ohealio means that their competitor has stopped using the brand name and paid a portion of their legal fees, whilst avoiding lengthy and expensive legal proceedings.

Although ohealio is a relatively new business, they have bold plans for the future, including the UK launch of ohealio and its telehealth services in January 2023.

About our expert

Gemma Pickavant

Gemma Pickavant

Intellectual Property Solicitor
Having originally joined us in 2016 as a legal assistant, Gemma trained as a solicitor with Harper James and qualified as an intellectual property solicitor in 2021. Gemma has a strong corporate background which enables her to see the bigger picture of a business and informs her strategic advice.

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