Back to school ... Cranford Community College v Cranford College Ltd  EWHC 2999 (IPEC), decided by Judge Richard Hacon on 19 September, is another in the line of swift, simple decisions of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, England and Wales, which demonstrate the virtues of that humble tribunal.
Cranford Community College (originally Cranford Community School) had since 1975 been a state secondary school. As its name might suggest, the school was situated in Cranford, within the London Borough of Hounslow --home to Heathrow, the world's busiest airport. The school had been using the name Cranford Community College ('CCC') since 1997.
Cranford College Ltd ('CCL'), a privately owned educational establishment, offered courses for students of post-school age. Incorporated in 2010, it commenced student enrolment in 2011, trading as "Cranford College" and (in advertising) as "Cranford Academy". By curious coincidence CCL was also located in Cranford, within half a mile of CCC.
* In principle, although the law of passing off was primarily concerned with goodwill in the business of a trader, it could be relied on to protect goodwill enjoyed by non-traders such state schools, churches and charities.
*However, CCC still had to establish that the term "Cranford College" had acquired a secondary meaning among the relevant public, who would believe that it referred to CCC and that it would not be taken to refer to any other educational establishment in Cranford. This particular relevant public consisted of individuals living in the London Boroughs of Hounslow, Ealing ["the Queen of the Suburbs"] and Hillingdon.
* On the evidence, CCC failed to show that it owned goodwill associated with the name "Cranford College", or that the relevant public treated that name as referring only to CCC and not to any other body. The goodwill element of passing off had not been established in relation to the names and that was enough to kill off the claim based on the names.
* What about goodwill in CCC's logos? While these were distinctive, there was no evidence that the public identified CCC's services by reference to the logos rather than CCC's trade names. In any event it had not been shown that CCL deliberately intended to pass itself off as CCC [Merpel can't imagine why a private tertiary college should want to pass itself off as a state secondary school anyway] and there was insufficient evidence of any misrepresentation by CCL or confusion on the part of the relevant public (paras 62-63). No misrepresentation had been established in respect of the logos (para.64).
* There were no grounds for revoking CCL's trade marks.
If you really want to be confused, as this Kat was, remember that there is an institution that is better known than Cranford or Cranford: Cranfield.
Cats' Colleges here, here and here