Skype’s name too similar to Sky, says EU court

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By Larry Banks

Popular video calling software Skype’s name is so similar to broadcaster Sky’s that the public may be confused between the two, says an EU court.

The judgement prohibits Microsoft from registering a trademark for Skype’s name and the bubble logo, but the US company intends to appeal against the decision.

Skype and Sky names too similar?

Judges at the General Court of the European Union said: “Conceptually, the figurative element conveys no concept, except perhaps that of a cloud”.

“That would further increase the likelihood of the element ‘Sky’ being recognised within the word element ‘Skype’, for clouds are to be found ‘in the sky’ and thus may readily be associated with the word ‘sky'”.

Microsoft brought the case in order to challenge earlier rulings by the EU’s Office for Harmonisation of Internal Markets, which, after a complaint in 2005 by the broadcaster, said that Skype branding was too similar to Sky’s to be granted an EU-wide trademark.

Skype Video Call

Legal clashes

It’s not the first legal battle between Sky and Microsoft. In 2014, Microsoft changed the name of its cloud storage service from SkyDrive to OneDrive after the High Court in London said that Sky’s trademark name had been infringed.

A Microsoft spokesperson said that it was not facing the prospect of a rebrand of Skype.

“The case was not a legal challenge to Skype’s use of the mark, it was only against the registration,” she said.

“We’re confident that no confusion exists between these brands and services and will appeal. This decision does not require us to alter product names in any way”.

However, Microsoft believes it can still prevent anyone else from calling their product Skype.

Smart pen battles…

Sky could, in theory, pursue Microsoft for a licensing fee even if it didn’t want to block the usage of the name Skype. However, the firm has not made comment in a statement after the ruling:

“Sky notes today’s decision from the General Court of the European Union”, it said.

“This relates to a long-running dispute with Skype over the extension of its trademark applications to cover a broad range of goods and services that overlap with Sky’s own trademark registrations – including, but not limited to, TV related products and services. Our intention has been to protect the Sky brand with our research showing that similarities in name and logo have the potential to confuse customers”.

Sky has in the past acted against other US companies to protect its identity – in 2012 it threatened to sue the smart pen company Livescribe for trademark infringement. The US company did not fight the case and changed the name of the product from the Sky Wifi to the Livescribe Wifi pen in the UK, but kept the original name elsewhere.

SOURCE: Reuters

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos