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Monday, 18 August 2008

The mess is "easy" but the "core" is hard

The Times, this Saturday, picked up this curiosity concerning an extraordinary twist in the Saga of Stelios. Having fought tooth and nail to stop predatory businesses "borrowing" the prefix "easy" which he so eloquently attached to easyJet, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is now suing the airline he founded in 1995 in order to limit its ability to cash in on "easy-" activities that conflict with his other ventures.

Right: the latest gimmick in low-cost passenger transport -- edible flights ...

Sir Stelios, who remains a member of the easyJet board and retains a 16% share in it, also owns the easyJet name through another company, easyGroup IP Licensing, which is the claimant in these proceedings. According to Sir Stelios, easyJet has associated itself with non-flying activities such as hotels, car hire and insurance. This is reputedly contrary to the terms laid down when easyJet was floated in 2000, when the brand licensing contract required the carrier to make 75 per cent of its income from “core activities”. This term is open to different interpretations: EasyJet says it includes activities associated with transporting passengers such as levying additional baggage charges, providing airport parking and running hotels. Sir Stelios considers that these activities clash with his other “easy” ventures, submitting that the airline's easyJethotels and easyJetholidays are potentially confusing with easyGroup brands such as easyHotels and easyCruise.

The IPKat is desperately worried about this litigation: if the defendants are allowed to get away with their business plans, members of the public might be duped into believing that the word "easy" is an ordinary descriptive term and not, er ... never mind. Merpel wonders whether any companies that were so daft as to conceive a provision as vague as "core activities" and then plant it at the heart of a serious business arrangement received independent legal advice.

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