The law of passing off is a complicated business but it needs to be considered where trade marks have not been registered.

Where you believe that someone is unlawfully using your (unregistered) trade mark, there are three elements that you have to prove if you want to show infringement (and convince that other party to stop using it). These are goodwill, misrepresentation and damage.

The recent case of Redwood Tree Services v Redwood Tree Surgeons is helpful in elaborating on these points.

Both parties ran tree surgery businesses in Surrey.

The court held that as the claimant had been operating in the Guildford area since 2004 he had a small amount of goodwill in that area.

Where the defendant traded in that same area under “Redwood Tree Surgeons”, the public were likely to believe that goods or services offered by his business were those of the claimant’s business = misrepresentation.

Because the claimant was likely to lose sales to his competitor it was held that he had or was likely to suffer damage.

And so the claimant’s claim was successful.

This is a relatively simple claim of passing off but is a helpful illustration of how the individual aspects are broken down.

Article by Joe Walsh. Thanks to CMS Cameron McKenna and Mondaq for that story.

Image: James Taylor, Now Look Who’s Talking, 2014