14:05, November 01 72 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-01 14:05:03
Black cab shape not distinctive enough to be trademark, say judges

New-style taxis could roll on to city roads after two court of appeal judges ruled that the shape of a traditional London black cab was not distinctive.

The London Taxi Company wanted to claim an exclusive right to the black cab shape and thwart a rival firm. But Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Floyd have upheld a ruling made last year by a high court judge.

In January 2016, Mr Justice Arnold ruled that the shape was not a “valid registered trademark” after a high court hearing in London.

Appeal judges dismissed a challenge by the taxi company on Wednesday – although Lord Justice Floyd indicated that supreme court justices might be asked to consider the case.

Rival Ecotive said it is now in a position to put its electric Metrocab into production.

Confectionery giant Nestle earlier this year lost a similar trademark fight over the shape of a KitKat chocolate bar.

Specialist lawyers said Wednesday’s ruling showed how hard it was for manufacturers to trademark shapes.

“The London Taxi Company has been trying to prevent a rival manufacturer from producing a new style of London taxi which it claims infringes its intellectual property rights in the original shape,” said lawyer Mike Gardner, who is based at law firm Wedlake Bell.

“The court of appeal has dashed the notion that there is any trademark protection for the classic design.”

He added: “The case illustrates how difficult it can be for anyone to obtain a permanent monopoly to protect the shape of something as a brand – even where that shape is iconic. The loss of its trademark registrations effectively leaves the London Taxi Company powerless to prevent competitors producing similar-looking vehicles.”