Complete Failure for Ford at the IPO

Fords attempt to oppose the trademark ‘Lync&Co’ has failed at the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The mark opposed covers class 12 (vehicles) and class 37 (vehicles maintenance), it was applied for in May 2016 by a Chinese company called Geely.

Ford quickly expressed their issue that the mark sounded phonetically similar to their mark Lincoln, and the goods that Geely provided under class 12 were similar to those provided by Ford under the name of ‘Lincoln’, particularly “Passenger automobiles and parts and accessories.” Ford also claimed that promotion of the mark would be detrimental to their reputation as the vehicles sold by Geely were aimed at mass appeal, where as Ford’s ‘Lincoln’ is more prestigious and luxurious, this in turn according to Ford would give them a free-ride with regards to advertising.

The chief trademark counsel at Ford provided a witness statement explaining that although sales were moderate the reputation extended beyond this being that they were luxury cars. The statement went on to cite Top Gear and its website a popular tv show in the UK. A website search showed that Top Gear had made reference a number of times between 2006 and 2016, and therefore the British public had been exposed to the ‘Lincoln’ brand according to the decision.

The IPO’s counsel George Salthouse argued that the cars were not sold or advertised by Ford in the UK under the opposed mark or the similar ‘Lincoln’ mark. Ford responded explaining that even if the vehicles are imported and sold by others in the UK it is still creating a market and although Ford did not have any formal links with those selling the Lincoln in the UK because they had not tried to oppose those selling ‘Lincolns’ in the UK they were still able to rely on these sales to uphold its registration.

Salthouse responded “to my mind this is not intentional use of the mark but mere happenstance.” He went on to say that Ford’s claim “failed completely” and Ford were ordered to pay Geely £1,700.

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