Easy Life band change name after easyGroup trade mark infringement threat

Easy Life was, until recently, the name of an indie band from Leicester, UK. The band has now changed their name after easyGroup threatened them with legal action, claiming trade mark infringement. Here are the details and some reflections on the situation:

Background: easyGroup, easy trade mark filing

easyGroup is the owner of a large number of marks, the most recognisable one being EASYJET in Classes 16, 39, 42, 43 and 44 [Hairdressing, who knew?!]. They also own many others which use the word EASY alongside another single word relating to a good or service such as EASYBUS, EASYFERRY, EASYCLEANING, EASYFOOD, EASYCOURIER, EASYDESK, EASYOFFICE… the list goes on, and on… 

Readers might be thinking that these marks lack distinctiveness or there is an ambitious registration practice underway. Indeed, easyGroup lost a trade mark dispute against EasyRoommate where Arnold J (as he then was) found that the trade mark was descriptive and therefore invalid. He stated that, although the EASY family of trade marks had acquired distinctiveness, the threshold for distinctiveness was set very high and the "EASY" trade mark had not acquired distinctiveness on its own. [Katpost here]. 

easyGroup also recently lost out on 4 more marks due to non-use, including EASYOFFICE [easyGroup Ltd v Nuclei Ltd & Ors, a rather complex case spanning over two decades; readers can find an explainer of the latest judgment from previous Kat Rosie Burbidge here]. This Kat wonders how many of easyGroup’s marks could be revoked, or at least reduced, on the very same grounds. 

Amongst the marks owned by easyGroup is a registration for EASYLIFE against a long list of goods, 434 to be precise; yes, this Kat counted! The four hundred and thirty-four goods range from CDs, DVDs, precious and semi-precious stones, to wigs, specialized underwear, false eyelashes, birdcages, hunting and fishing equipment, fireworks and nautical navigation. Everything but the kitchen sink, apparently. Oh wait, kitchen furniture is on the list!

The mark was filed as a series of 2. The first [UK00003532904] was filed on 14 September 2020 and registered 19 August 2022. Interestingly, the second, filed 10 September 2021, [UK00003692922] is currently opposed [OP000429904].

 Image: Easy Life's Life's A Beach tour poster
as included in documents submitted to the High Court

Easy Life, the band, formed in 2017, three years before easyGroup filed its registration. They are signed to Island Records and their third mixtape, Junk Food, reached No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart a day after its release. Their debut studio album, ‘Life's a Beach’, was released on 28 May 2021.

If you searched the UK IPO trade mark register for EASYLIFE, you would find that there are 108 marks. Based on the 434 goods included in easyGroup’s registration, this Kat assumes we are expecting at least 104 additional claims to be filed. This is after easyGroup have finished with easyfundraising, a charity shopping site who are currently resisting claims brought it February 2022.  

The claim: Easy Life, easy target?

Unsurprisingly, given easyGroup’s enthusiasm for enforcing its marks, they commenced legal action against the band Easy Life in Autumn 2023. 

easyGroup’s claim, lodged in the Chancery Division of the High Court of England and Wales [easyGroup v Easy Life, case ref IL-2023-000156], stated that not only were the band using the EASYLIFE mark but that they had also promoted their ‘Life's a Beach’ tour, in 2021 and 2022, with a poster, merchandise and website showing a plane in the style of EasyJet's [registered] orange. easyGroup argued that the band was “riding on the coat tails of the valuable reputation” and “by wrongly creating a link with the claimant, the defendant benefits from an association with that positive view and vast brand recognition, regardless of whether the link was intended to be provocative or humorous.”

easyGroup previously took issue with a mail-order business called EasyLife. It appears that, in those circumstances, the parties settled and the end result was that Easy Life now licences the branding from easyGroup. easyGroup therefore suggested that letting the band use the mark for free would be unfair. 

Easy Life said that they were “certain in no way have we ever affected their business,” and that they felt like it was a David vs Goliath situation, and since they didn’t have the funds to defend themselves in court said that the “British legal system favours Goliath”. This Kat recently finished a report on press reporting and public perception of IP rights for the UK IPO [due to be published imminently!] which highlights the ‘David vs Goliath’ narrative that has been successfully utilised by defendants in recent years, where the claimant has dropped or settled the matter after social media backlash. Easy Life did take to social media and received support from artists including Professor Green, Arlo Parks and Mahalia, several MPs, UK Music chair Tom Watson and the chair of the Ivors Academy, Tom Gray.

Nevertheless, the band released a statement on their website on 11th October that they were changing their name and entering into a period of mediation with easyGroup. 

This Kat feels like the use of the plane and the orange in the band’s branding would likely have constituted trade mark infringement, since there is no parody exception for trade mark as there is instead in copyright law. Although it is doubtful that audiences and consumers would have been confused by this, and so perhaps it’s time we had one? In relation to the band’s name, this Kat thinks there would have been a case to be heard as to whether easyGroup’s mark was valid on grounds of distinctiveness and non-use given the 434 goods in its claim. 

What do readers think?

Easy Life band change name after easyGroup trade mark infringement threat Easy Life band change name after easyGroup trade mark infringement threat Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Wednesday, November 01, 2023 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Terrible shame the question of validity won't (yet) be tested in court. However, I don't think a parody exception should exist for trade marks as it would be a complete chancer's charter. If there's one group that that bothers me as much as heavy-handed TM owners, it's the twerps who foolishly think they're too clever for the law to apply to them.


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