The EU's General Court has upheld a ruling by the bloc's trademark watchdog that the logo of VoIP service Skype can be confused with that of British broadcaster Sky, backing a complaint by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
The EU court on Tuesday upheld an earlier ruling by the bloc's Office for the Harmonization in Internal Market (OHIM) that had said Skype's trademark was "visually, phonetically and conceptually similar" to that of the British pay-TV broadcaster Sky.
The Luxembourg-based court found that not only did the word 'Sky' appear in the name 'Skype,' but the cloud-shaped border around the Skype logo also "creates associations with the sky."
"The pronunciation of the vowel ‘y' is no shorter in the word ‘skype' than it is in the word ‘sky'," the court added.
Moreover, the judges argued that the logos had not existed side by side for long enough to rule out the likelihood of confusion.
Skype applied to register its name for identical goods and services in 2004 and 2005. The UK-based broadcasting giant, owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, subsequently complained to the EU's (OHIM) trademark watchdog.
Battle of titans
The dispute, which has been running for five years, was little-known outside legal circles until it emerged in a document that accompanied Skype's initial public offering (IPO). According to Sky, its polling had found that consumers are confused, contending that the logos were similar.
US-based software giant Microsoft, which bought Skype in a deal worth 8.5 billion euros ($9.4 billion) four years ago, said it will appeal against the decision at the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice. A Microsoft spokesperson told German news agency dpa that the company was "confident no confusion exists between these brands and services," adding: "This decision does not require us to alter product names in any way."
Microsoft, on its side, has put in a counterclaim trying to invalidate four Sky trademarks "on the grounds of descriptiveness for cloud storage services."
uhe/cjc (dpa, EU General Court)