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Shape of London Black Taxis Not Distinctive Enough to Be Trade Marked

The iconic shape of the classic London black taxi is recognised around the world – but the Court of Appeal has ruled that it does not have the distinctive character required to form the basis of a valid trade mark.

taxisThe manufacturers of the Fairway taxi had registered three-dimensional trade marks that featured drawings of the vehicle and sought to protect its familiar shape. They launched proceedings against the makers of the Metrocab, arguing that a new model of the rival taxi that was due to be released onto the market infringed the trade marks. The action failed, however, after a judge ruled the trade marks invalid.

In dismissing the manufacturers’ challenge to that ruling, the Court found that the shape of the Fairway did not have inherent distinctive character and had not acquired distinctive character through use. The basic design features of the vehicle were no more than a variant on those of a standard car.

Even if the class of ‘average consumers’ included both taxi drivers and their clients, it had not been established that they would perceive the Fairway’s shape as an indication that the vehicles are the product of a single manufacturer. Also rejecting a passing off claim, the Court noted that the design of the new Metrocab is in any event strikingly different to that of the Fairway.