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Audio Equipment Manufacturer in Cross-Border Trade Marks Tussle

Cross-border intellectual property disputes can raise tricky jurisdictional issues and such difficulties were put into high relief by the case of a British audio equipment manufacturer that accused a Spanish company of violating its UK trade marks.

The manufacturer launched proceedings in England, alleging that its Spanish rival had infringed its UK trade marks in logos incorporating a stylised sine wave and was also guilty of passing off. The latter argued that it operated solely in Spain and had never supplied any goods to the English market. On that basis it was submitted that the High Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the manufacturer’s claim.

In rejecting those arguments and accepting jurisdiction, the Court found that the manufacturer had a good arguable case that the Spanish company had, particularly via the Internet, advertised and offered for sale goods bearing the signs complained of within the UK. The manufacturer also had much the better of the argument that, to at least some degree, there had been passing off and the UK marks had been infringed.

The manufacturer was also entitled to proceed against the Spanish company’s sole director in respect of passing off and alleged infringement of the UK marks. The Court found, however, that claims that the manufacturer’s EU trade mark in a distinctive string of digits had also been infringed would have to be tried in Spain.