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Director held personally liable for trademark infringement

Posted: 14th September 2012   In: Corporate Commercial

A managing director has been held personally liable for his company’s infringement of a rival’s trademark.

The case involved two companies with similar names that both specialised in soil testing services.

Geolabs Ltd had a series of trademarks including the name, ‘Geolabs’. It complained that another company, Geo Laboratories, had infringed that trademark by trading under the name of ‘Geolab’ and by answering telephone inquiries with the word ‘Geolabs’. It alleged there had been instances of actual confusion.

Geo Laboratories went into liquidation so the issue became whether or not its managing director could be held personally responsible for the infringement of the mark.

The Patents County Court held that the term ‘Geolabs’ had acquired a distinctive character through use and was therefore a valid trademark. The word ‘Geolab’ was so similar that its use amounted to an infringement.

It was also admitted that Geo Laboratories had used the word ‘Geolabs’ when it was still operating.

The court found that the managing director had been closely involved in deciding to use the name and had also been involved in various episodes in which confusion had arisen.

He was the controlling mind and spirit of the company and was therefore personally liable.

Please contact Sarah Liddiard if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.