Black Cab manufacturer faces eco-friendly competition

04 BlackCab

The London Taxi Company has just lost its case at the Court of Appeals in which it was attempting to claim exclusive trade mark rights to the ‘classic black cab’ shape in order to prevent electric hybrid vehicles being manufactured to a similar shape by a competitor. The original case was heard in January 2016 when Mr Justice Arnold ruled that the shape was not a “valid registered trade mark” at the High Court; a ruling which was recently upheld by Court of Appeal judges.

Ecotive, one of the co-developers of the Metrocab has welcomed the decision and said it is now in a position to go into full-scale production. The concept of the Metrocab is to produce an electric hybrid vehicle capable of being zero-emission and reducing environmental impact without being limited by the single-charge range of already available fully electric vehicles.

In a recent press release a Metrocab spokesperson said, “It is a great pity that unnecessary time has been wasted, especially when we could have been contributing to the improvement of air quality for Londoners with our innovative and game-changing technology. We are looking forward to getting production up and running in Coventry following the court’s decision.”

This case again highlights the difficulties companies can encounter when trying to register and enforce shapes as registered trade marks. Only earlier this year Nestle also lost a similar case trying to claim exclusive rights over the shape of its KitKat chocolate bar.

Conversely however, Toblerone manufacturer Mondelez was able to successfully defend its rights to the shape of its bar, by forcing Poundland to redesign its Twin Peaks bar after settling a three-month dispute with the UK discount retailer. So-called ‘shape’ trade marks can be registered and enforced, but their validity usually depends on several case-specific factors.

For any aspect of Intellectual Property advice and overall strategy, please get in touch with the ip21 team.

Richard Jones, Business Relationship Manager for ip21 Ltd.