The High Court recently dismissed the appeal of Lidl Logistics against a Company Names Tribunal decision from November 2022.
High Court Decision: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2023/2760.html
Original Decision: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/company-names-tribunal-decision-lidl-logistics-limited/decision-on-lidl-logistics-limited–2
In the Original Decision, the Companies Names Tribunal required Lidl Logistics to change its name following an application from Lidl, the well known supermarket chain. The application was made under Section 69 Companies Act 2006, which says:
“Objection to company’s registered name
(1) A person (‘The applicant’) may object to a company’s registered name on the ground—
(a) that it is the same as a name associated with the applicant in which he has goodwill, or
(b) that it is sufficiently similar to such a name that its use in the United Kingdom would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the applicant.
There are a couple of defences to a section 69 application, such as the name being registered before the commencement of the activities on which the appliant replies, or that there is no adverse affect to any signifiant extent on the application. There’s a couple more as well.
The Appeal was made on the basis that section 69 Companies Act 2006 came in to force after Lidl Logistics Limited was incorporated on 7th December 2004, but the section of the act did not come into play until 1st October 2008. It was argued that the act did not apply retrospectively and therefore could not be enforced upon Lidl Logistics.
The Judge on appeal said:
Section 69 does not seek to impose past liability for past events. It merely provides a mechanism by which the future use of a name can be controlled. The section only looks to the future and does not seek to make a company liable for past events, when it was not so liable under the laws existing at the time.
That is, while Section 69 does not apply retrospectively, it doesn’t need to. It permits a person to object to a registered name – at any time, and in doing so will seek to limit future events and not retrospectively.
Moreover, the Judge said, the whole point of section 69 is to give protection and prevent unfairness. The use of the Lidl Logistics name was likely to mislead and therefore it was correct for the Tribunal to require Lidl Logistics to change its name.
As of writing, Lidl Logistics hasn’t changed its name at Companies House. It looks like it has been a dormant company since incorporation as well, which is strange.
Section 69 Applications are relatively quick, affordable ways of stopping someone using an identical or similar name to yours. You do need to show goodwill and reputation in the name, but it can often be an easier way than bringing passing off proceedings.
If you need assistance with intellectual property matters like this, then get in touch with Steven today.