London Black Cabs Trade mark is Declared Invalid by the Court of Appeal.

London’s Black Cabs have lost their distinctive trade mark to the company behind electric taxis. On 5th October 1998, the London Taxi Company registered a Community Trade mark for motor vehicles in “class 12” This consisted of a three dimensional mark that was based on the original Fairways taxi model as shown below. They then registered a UK trade mark based on the TXI and TXII.

London Black Cabs has a three dimensional shape associated with the traditional London Black Cabs. The London Taxi Company or LTC are the successor in title to the manufacture of several different taxi models and has sued Ecotive and Frazer Nash Research Limited the manufacturers of a new Hybrid model or Metrocab.
However, appeal judges decided that the shape was not distinctive enough, proving that is hard for manufacturers to trade mark shapes.

The company based in London itself was attempting to gain exclusive rights to the black cab shape in order to thwart the rival business. However last year’s High Court Ruling was upheld by Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Floyd.

Although it was indicated that the Supreme Court could be asked to consider the case. Last year Mr Justice Arnold ruled that the shape of the black cab was not a ‘valid registered trade mark similar to the recent Nestle case which ruled against the trade mark of the shape of a kit kat bar.

The London Taxi Company has been trying to block a rival manufacturer from producing a modern style of the original London taxi which it claims infringes its intellectual property rights with regard to the original shape. However the Court of Appeal has cast off the notion that there is any trade mark protection for the classic design.

This case demonstrates how difficult it can be for anyone to obtain a permanent monopoly to protect the shape of something as a brand – even where that shape is iconic or recognisable. The loss of its trade mark registrations effectively leaves the London Taxi Company powerless to prevent competitors producing similar-looking vehicles and this may open the floodgates for more companies to produce vehicles of this type.


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