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Specsavers Triumph in ‘Overlapping Ovals’ Trade Mark Row

In a case which could open the floodgates to a rush of trade mark applications, high street opticians Specsavers have succeeded in convincing the Court of Appeal that the overlapping ovals which they use on their advertising and shop fronts are entitled to legal protection – even in their ‘wordless’ form.

Specsavers fiercely objected when a supermarket chain began marketing its optician service using a mark which featured conjoined elipses. That dispute was settled on confidential terms following lengthy litigation. However, by then, a judge had ruled Specsavers’ ‘wordless logo’ invalid and directed its revocation.

In allowing Specsavers’ appeal against that decision and ruling that the overlapping ovals were entitled to full trade mark protection, the Court noted that the retailer had spent many millions of pounds on advertising campaigns which always featured the conjoined shapes with the company’s name in their midst.

The Court found that the ovals had, through years of marketing, become more than merely ‘background’ to the company’s name. They had developed a ‘distinctive character’ of their own and were widely perceived by consumers as indicative of the goods and services provided by Specsavers.

The Registrar of Trade Marks had resisted the appeal and expressed concern that he might be faced with many applications to register relatively commonplace outline shapes as logo marks. However, the Court emphasised that the case had been decided on its own facts and that it was in general unlikely that the background of a mark would be perceived by the public as an indication of origin.