Victory for Direct Line in battle of the ‘wheels’

Insurance brand Direct Line has won the latest battle in its legal wrangle with rival Esure over the trademarking of a computer mouse on wheels.

The insurers have been embroiled in a two-year battle over the trademark, which has culminated in the High Court backing Direct Line, which alleged that Esure’s application to trademark a mouse on wheels was too similar to its brand icon, a red telephone on wheels.

Esure, which was created as a joint venture between HBOS and Peter Wood, is considering an appeal.

The court ruled that the trademark application should be refused because its use would take unfair advantage of or be detrimental to Direct Line’s similar mark, even though there would be “no likelihood of confusion” in the minds of the public.

Direct Line, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, began advertising with its telephone icon in 1990. Direct Line has also used a red computer mouse on wheels in recent advertising.

The mouse on wheels was first used in a TV ad for Esure in 2004. The character is not currently in use but did feature in direct response TV ads during the trademark case.

The Trade Mark Registry backed Direct Line’s objection to Esure’s application in December last year (MW January 11). The fight was taken to the High Court in May with the judge declining to interfere with the view of the Trade Marks Registry.

Direct Line’s earlier trademarks were various representations of its telephone on wheels.

A spokesman for Direct Line says it is “delighted” with the decision. He says: “The mouse and phone on wheels are synonymous with Direct Line.”

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