The IPKat is grateful to Tom Cowling of Swan Turton for news of the victory of his firm’s client, Channel 4 in A & E Televisions Networks v Channel 4 Television Corp. Judgment was handed down by His Honour Judge Fysh QC SC today.
The passing off claim centered around the term INTERVENTION. A&E Television used the term as the title of one of its programmes, broadcast in the US, concerning a psychotherapeutic technique known as ‘intervention’ where people suffering from addictions or compulsive behaviour disorders are treated by a professional ‘interventionist’ who arranges a surprise confrontation between the patient and his or her family and/or friends.
Channel 4 broadcast a programme in the UK on the same technique entitled ‘Intervention: We’re Coming to Get You’
The judge found that there was no passing off. Although there was some confusion among TV executives responsible for licensing programmes, this was the risk ran by any trader that chooses a descriptive name. Moreover, in the close-knit world of TV production, such confusion could easily be dispelled.
Said the judge:
"The law of passing off will not countenance the unfair monopolisation of descriptive words or terms".The IPKat is always in two minds about cases like this. On the one hand, he doesn’t like to see consumers confused. On the other, he doesn’t like to see competition harmed by over-strict IP rules. Luckily the issue doesn’t arise so often as its so hard to gain goodwill in descriptive terms.