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Canary Wharf Owners Taste the Downside of Fame

Is it possible to be too famous or have too much success? The owners of London’s Canary Wharf estate may think so after the name’s association in the public mind with the business district where it stands resulted in the rejection of a trade mark application.

Canary Wharf Group plc had applied to register the sign ‘Canary Wharf’ as a trade mark in respect of various goods and services. The company appealed to the High Court after the application was refused in its entirety by a hearing officer appointed by the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks.

The hearing officer had concluded that the phrase served, in trade, to designate the geographical origin of the goods and services concerned and that registration was thus barred by Section 3(1)(c) of the Trade Marks Act 1994. In challenging that decision, the company argued that the phrase ‘Canary Wharf’ described a private estate and was no more descriptive of a place name, or geographical area, than, say, ‘Battersea Power Station’.

In dismissing the company’s appeal, however, the High Court noted that Canary Wharf is viewed by the public as a business district and geographical area of London which is home to a large variety of business uses and which enjoys its own transport links, including an underground station which bears its name. In those circumstances, the hearing officer’s conclusions could not be faulted.