The UK’s largest sporting-goods retailer, Sports Direct, has lost a trademark infringement case against the comparatively small online-based business, Fitness Direct.

Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley launched a trademark suit against Fitness Direct, arguing that the similarity of the names would lead to its rival taking an ‘unfair advantage’ of the goodwill associated with the Sports Direct brand. He argued it would be “detrimental to the distinctiveness” of Sports Direct.

In 2017, the UKIPO disagreed. It ruled against the fitness and sporting-goods giant, pointing out that the words used were not unique to it and that the two brands were clearly distinct – meaning that customers were highly unlikely to confuse the two. The High Court recently upheld this decision, ruling that the UKIPO was correct to dismiss Sport Direct’s opposition on the basis that its brand lacks distinctiveness.

This case shows how important it is for companies to carefully consider names for their products and brand. The majority of the world’s leading brands have a name that isn’t associated with what they offer or sell, for example, Virgin, Apple, and Nike. The more unique the brand name, the easier it will be to, firstly, obtain a trademark and, secondly, protect that trademark and brand as a whole.

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