What’s in an “N”?

27 Jun 2016

Reports have recently emerged of a potential David and Goliath battle between the Internet media giant Netflix and Prolific North Limited, an independently owned publishing company based in Manchester.

Prolific North were founded in 2013 and launched with a stylised “N” logo (below) of a red ribbon overlapping in the shape of an “N” which was designed for them by Origin, a creative designs agency, and which was reworked by Don’t Panic, another agency, last March.  Prolific North have developed a growing reputation in the North and are widely recognised by their “N” logo.

On 20 June, Netflix unveiled a re-brand introducing a new stylised “N” logo of their own (below) which also happens to be a red ribbon overlapping in the shape of an “N”.  Almost immediately customers of Prolific North started to contact it through social media over the striking similarity between the two logos.

Prolific North have gone on record in an interview with The Guardian newspaper to make it clear that they do not accuse Netflix of copying their stylised “N” logo but that Netflix had most likely failed to conduct a thorough search for conflicting logos before adopting their new “N” logo.

As yet, Netflix has not commented upon the matter but Prolific North are understandably concerned about the commercial impact that Netflix adopting their new “N” logo may have on them given the likelihood of Netflix’s new logo becoming exceptionally well known following its introduction and use.

Lessons and actions

Given the disparity in size between the two parties we may not see this matter go before the UK courts but it does provide an abject lesson to parties who spend a great deal of time and expense on their branding to (i) take steps to avoid potential conflicts and (ii) put themselves in a stronger position in the unfortunate circumstances of a conflict arising.  In particular:-

  1. Businesses should seek to “clear” their brands and logos in the markets they intend to launch in prior to launch (i.e. they should seek to establish whether the same or similar brand or logo is already in use within the relevant markets);
  2. While it is possible to rely upon prior rights in an unregistered mark to protect one’s business from a third party using the same or similar mark, businesses will be in a stronger position if they apply for and obtain a trade mark registration which they can seek to enforce against a third party and/or rely upon to oppose registration of the same or similar mark by a third party.

DMH Stallard’s IP team advises on all areas of businesses’ trade mark and IP needs.  Further information and advice can be obtained by contacting:

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