One of the most precious qualities of any brand is its distinctiveness. For a company to maintain any degree of advantage over its competitors through the uniqueness of its brand identity, it must vigorously defend that identity against any imitation that could diminish its market position or its value in the eyes of its customers.

That’s why a recent victory by a subsidiary of Sky plc is so significant – because it’s a clear sign of just how seriously the business takes the matter of who controls its intellectual property.

An important first step

The subsidiary – Sky International AG, who are based in Zurich – have enjoyed an early victory in an ongoing legal battle with another Swiss company. The Europe-wide trade mark infringement ruling has gone against SKW SKYWORTH Europe S.A. who are a television manufacturer. The decision by the EU Trade Mark Court has awarded Sky International AG a preliminary injunction that forbids SKW SKYWORTH Europe S.A. from offering, advertising or promoting SKYWORTH-branded televisions. This applies right across the entire EU and it seems that the judge’s decision was based on a compelling argument that using the SKYWORTH brand was likely to confuse customers – and, in doing so, damage the Sky brand itself.

Reputation and distinctiveness

It’s clear that it was this need to protect both the reputation and the distinctiveness of Sky’s brand in Europe that was the driving force behind the legal challenge to SKW SKYWORTH Europe S.A. – the risk of any damage to the brand occurring through European customers confusing the two brands was simply too great to ignore. This position was outlined by one of the key players in the Sky IP team, who spoke after the ruling.

Protecting the brand

“Sky takes enforcement of its intellectual property rights extremely seriously and this is another positive step in protecting Sky’s brand,” says Brett Shelton, Acting Head of International Intellectual Property, Sky International AG. “We are pleased with this positive and wide reaching decision.”

While this is clearly an important decision for Sky International AG, it’s important to say that this is just a preliminary decision, which could in time be overturned. Sky seem confident though that the decision will stand once the hearing reconvenes in February next year, but until then it has at least put a hold on what it sees as any potential erosion of the company’s brand identity.