Goodwill, badwill -- read all about it!

NoTW: in happier times
After 168 years of continuous publication, News Group's News of the World Sunday newspaper is to close, following an avalanche of distressing and unsavoury revelations and accusations of phone-tapping, bribing the police and causing distress to bereaved families of murder victims and members of the British armed forces who were killed in combat.

This post does not propose to report or comment on the allegations, since they have been so extensively covered by British news sources and spread via the social media. Instead, it looks at one small IP-related topic: what happens when a trading name becomes toxic.

The News of the World was Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper, attracting copious quantities of lucrative advertising revenue. Over the past couple of days, a host of advertisers have either announced that they were pulling out of advertising with the paper or were considering doing so. Without advertising, there is little point in printing the paper. Accordingly it makes business sense to cease publication.

Sorry, News Group -- the
Sunday Sun got there first
As for the name, News Group holds two UK trade marks (here and here) and one Community trade mark (here) for the word mark NEWS OF THE WORLD and, assuming that the title is not resurrected, their asset value is presumably decimated.  The same publisher has a string of registrations for THE SUN (here), a popular tabloid and a sister publication to News of the World, which has led to strong speculation in The Old Nick and indeed throughout the realm that the Sunday paper will be revamped and relaunched as The Sun on Sunday, or under a similar title.  There are no trade mark registrations for SUN ON SUNDAY, but SUNDAY SUN has already been registered by the Newcastle Chronicle & Journal Limited for "Newspapers for sale in the counties of Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland, North Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear" -- with honest concurrent use stated to go back to 1919.

If a swift rebrand and relaunch is planned, either the workforce has not been told or the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has performed an improbable and masterly act of collusion. The NUJ's statement here appears to pull no punches in its condemnation both of the decision to close the paper and of those who took that decision.  This Kat never had much time for the paper, but is saddened that, faced with a choice between reform or death, its proprietors so quickly took the latter option.

Merpel finds it difficult to imagine that the experienced and cunning business brains at the top of Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire will have leaped to a rash and random decision to kill the title without having thought carefully through all the consequences and, indeed, without having a Plan B and even a Plan C if their initial thinking doesn't work out.  She wonders whether readers have any ideas what these plans might be ...

News of the World: more background here
Goodwill, badwill -- read all about it! Goodwill, badwill -- read all about it! Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, July 07, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. One other unresolved issue is the success or otherwise of the paywall on the NOTW website. Clearly the brief time it has been in existence is too short to evaluate whether this was a good business model for a 'popular' (aka gutter press) newspaper.

  2. "decimated" = "reduced by a tenth", not "reduced to a tenth".

    Really what you meant to say?

  3. Rudolph Murdoch has a finely-honed business sense for making money, and if anything jeopardises that, on (this one anyway) gets the feeling that it would be ditched toute de suite. I understand that Murdoch is bidding for UK television channels, which will require Government permission (and of course there's the attempt to take over Formula 1). Given the ease of rebadging NOTW, I can understand Rupert's mea culpa act.

    It0s a sad comment on the huiman race that, for years, the only publication that outsold NOTW was the equally badly-named "Pravda".

  4. @Anonymous 8:57am

    I stand by what I wrote. "Decimate", in the meaning you mention, is the second meaning listed in my Collins Dictionary, and it is mentioned as being used in this way in the context of the ancient Roman army. The first meaning which the dictionary ascribes to "decimate" is ""to destroy or kill a large proportion of".

    I rest my case.

  5. Is this not a rare example of the goodwill in a business denoted by a mark being abandoned/ destroyed by its owners. Will this mean their rights under the law of passing off are gone? Where does it leave their registered trade marks (particularly where in relation to revocation and under prima facie infringement outside s10(1))


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