High Court delivers important ruling on passing off

United Kingdom

Radio Taxicabs (London) Limited, which trades under the name 'Radio Taxis' and which takes bookings for London black cabs by telephone and on its website 'RadioTaxis.co.uk', has failed in an attempt before the High Court to win the domain name 'RadioTaxis.com' from its rival Dial-A-Cab. Dial-A-Cab uses the domain name to take internet users to its own website, 'DialACab.com'.

Radio Taxis has been trading since the 1950s. In 1997 its rival registered the disputed '.com' domain name. In 1998 Radio Taxis registered the '.co.uk' name. In 2000 the company took action to get hold of the '.com' name.

Radio Taxis contended that the combination of the domain name and the fact that it was being used by a rival site amounted to passing off, whereby one business represents itself as being associated with another in such a way as to cause confusion.

In its judgment on January 8 2002, the High Court did not agree, noting that Radio Taxis did not provide any evidence of actual confusion during the two years in which Dial-A-Cab used the domain name 'RadioTaxis.com'.

The court also stated that it did not believe Dial-A-Cab had registered the name with the intention of taking advantage of its rival's name, reputation or goodwill, or of diverting its business. It was also significant, said the court, that while the name 'Radio Taxis' was well known within the taxi trade, it had no such reputation among members of the general public. Accordingly, the claim for the domain name was dismissed.

Jon Fell, Masons, London

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