News & Insights

The Trouble with Trade Marks

Delta Air and Marriott Hotel Group are two very well-known brands who are leading in their respective fields of airline travel and luxury accommodation. Delta Air applied for Marriott’s trade mark “DELTA” to be revoked on the basis that it was too similar to their word mark, even though Marriott had registered under different services.

Marriott had registered the word “DELTA” for retail, hotel, restaurant, bar, lounge, reservation, and hotel accommodation services, whereas Delta Air’s mark covers services related to air transportation.

The Intellectual Property Office hearings officer invalidated Marriott’s mark for “DELTA” on the basis that hotel services, accommodation reservation services and resort lodging services were similar to air transportation services. The reasoning behind this was because the services are often complimentary and a person who flew to a destination would be likely to use accommodation services for their trip. As such, if they saw the word “DELTA,” they would be likely to associate those services as being provided by Delta Air because they are such a well-known brand.

The High Court agreed with this conclusion stating that there was a high risk of confusion between the marks and that Marriott’s mark took unfair advantage of Delta Air’s mark. Even though hotel services and air transportation services are different in an everyday sense, one can see how confusion could arise had this mark been allowed to remain registered.

When a trade mark is registered, it can provide significant protection for a company and its services but it is important to remember that not only can an application be rejected at the application stage, but even registered marks can be revoked with good cause.

When considering applying for a trade mark, it is important to research existing marks that are not only similar in terms of the services they provide, but to also consider other marks where there might be a less obvious connection, like in the Delta Air and Marriott case.

Applying for a trade mark can be complicated but seeking advice at an early stage can help to identify these sorts of problems before filing an application. If you would like any help with your trade mark applications, please contact: [email protected]