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Hotel and Spa in Titanic Struggle over Use of Doomed Ship’s Name

Hotel roomObvious risks of confusion arise if businesses that trade in the same field use similar or identical names. However, in one case concerning two hospitality companies that both used the word ‘Titanic’ in their titles, the High Court found a way of ensuring that they can live together and continue trading successfully.

The owners of the spa objected to the hotel’s use of ‘Titanic’ in its name, particularly as the latter also offered a spa facility to its guests. Although the two businesses operated in different parts of the country, there was evidence that members of the public who booked on the Internet had suffered actual confusion.

The Court found that the hotel had infringed the spa’s trade mark and was also guilty of passing off. However, it noted that the hotel had not chosen its name with the intention of causing confusion or in any way associating itself with the business of the spa. After the spa complained, the hotel had taken steps to minimise confusion, in particular by changing the name of its spa facility.

In the circumstances, the Court found that the hotel would have a good defence to any future trade mark infringement or passing off claim if it placed a prominent notice on its website, making clear that it had no connection to the spa, and ceased all use of the word ‘spa’ in connection with the hotel.