“Flagrant degree of cynicism” – Michael Gleissner slammed in TRUMP TV opposition decision

  • Serial trademark filer Michael Gleissner sought TRUMP TV mark in October 2016
  • Company representing the IP of Trump family prevails in opposition against mark
  • Decision slams “well-evidenced pattern of abusive behaviour” by Gleissner

Millionaire and serial trademark filer Michael Gleissner has lost another opposition decision at the UK Intellectual Property Office, this time for the term TRUMP TV. Of particular note is the scathing language used by the hearing officer, with the entrepreneur blasted for having “a disdainful disregard for the opposition costs of the other side” and was ordered to pay £15,000 to a company related to US President Donald Trump.

As World Trademark Review has reported on extensively in the last two years, German-born film director Gleissner has become notorious to trademark owners for his rampant filing activity. We reported in 2016 on over 1,000 UK company names in which Gleissner is the sole director, with those entities subsequently used as the applicant name on over 4,400 trademark applications in at least 38 jurisdictions (last year we compiled much of the data into a single searchable document, The Gleissner Files). In February, we published another investigation, The Gleissner Oppositions, looking at trademark decisions in the UK related to the millionaire (with an unprecedented 13.2% of all UK opposition decisions in 2018 to that date being against Gleissner marks). While his activity is entirely legal, his motivations remain mysterious and more and more brands are finding themselves impacted.

Since we published our last investigation, Gleissner has been involved in more oppositions at the UKIPO – and has been frequently unsuccessful. Those include oppositions against the marks BRIANNADYLAN, EASY, HELIUM, MEME, PALLADIUM, PETRUS, PURPLE and WORLD (although he did prevail in at least one opposition since February, MAGNUS). Many of these oppositions succeeded on a bad faith argument, although the decisions have been relatively mild in criticism and costs have reflected that (ranging from £100 to £1,200). However, the latest opposition decision against a Gleissner-related application stands in stark contrast.

The application for the term TRUMP TV was filed by an entity owned by Gleissner in October 2016 in class 38 (telecom services) and class 41 (production of radio and TV shows). It was subsequently opposed by DTTM Operations LLC, a New York-based entity that handles and protects the intellectual property of US President Donald Trump and his family. The opposition decision was handed down on July 4, with DTTM Operations successful based on the grounds of bad faith. Gleissner’s entity was ordered to pay off-scale costs of £15,105.70 (which includes the opposition fee, UK attorneys’ fee and US attorneys’ fees).

But what makes this opposition unique (other than the involvement of the President of the United States) is that hearing officer Matthew Williams was scathing in his criticism of Gleissner’s legal activity. In describing the applicant’s counterstatement, which denied that the TRUMP TV and TRUMP marks are similar (but did contend that “in general, the established similarities between trademarks are retained in the average consumer's recollection, rather than the differences”), Williams wrote: “The adoption of such an indefensible position illustrates to me a flagrant degree of cynicism on the part of the Applicant, where other related companies have demonstrated a pattern of similar behaviour, including a disdainful disregard for the opposition costs of the other side.”

Considering whether off-scale costs are warranted in this particular case, Williams was similarly critical of the multi-millionaire, writing: “I particularly bear in mind the well-evidenced pattern of abusive behaviour on the part of Mr Gleissner and his related companies as shown, for example, in the Apple cases referenced above – which decisions were published well in advance of the current opposition – and in the more recent decisions in the Alexander case,” adding: “It is possible that the Applicant saw nothing wrong in its behaviour, but that changes nothing, since its behaviour must be judged against an objective standard. Looked at in that way, I have no doubt that the applicants acted unreasonably.”

Such strongly-worded criticism is rare in a UK opposition. In analysing the decision, Elkington + Fife partner Chris McLeod feels this could be a turning point. “The hearing officer’s attitude towards Gleissner is palpable,” he tells World Trademark Review. “The sentences in paragraphs 60 to 64 make it crystal clear. It is also interesting that he has awarded costs including those of the US attorneys who presumably instructed [UK IP law firm] Beck Greener. In essence, there is no way that the applicant could have made a valid defence, considering that the mark immediately evokes Donald Trump. In my view, the hearing officer was therefore correct to categorise the defence as he did. As such, this decision will give further support for future opponents to UK applications of this nature by Gleissner-owned companies, which can only be a positive development.”

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