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Should easyGroup have rights over easibook?

The owner of the brands easyJet, easyCar and easyEverything has threatened the operator of an on-line B2B hotel booking service called easibook.com, alleging that it is passing itself off as being connected with the brand founded by Stelios Haji-Ioannou.26 Jun 2002

This is the latest of a long line of cases in which easyGroup IP Licensing Limited has asserted rights to names incorporating the prefix “easy,” although possibly the first time it has targeted a web site that uses a misspelling of the word.

Easibook Limited is trading, apparently offering bookings at over 10,000 hotels worldwide. Its founder, Alan Cooke, has set up a protest site, easyprotest2.com, which narrates his current battle against easyGroup.

There used to be a site called easyprotest.com – but in an out-of-court settlement, easyGroup acquired the domain name and it now points to easyCar.com, a domain name it acquired in another “easy” dispute. EasyGroup re-branded its rental service, easyRentacar, as easyCar upon acquiring the shorter name.

Apart from the spelling of “easibook,” Cooke points to other differences between the brands. Easibook is not targeting consumers, unlike easyGroup companies. His use of the word is all lowercase; the easyGroup names are not. He uses different fonts and colour schemes and points out that reproducing the distinctive orange and white colouring of the easyGroup companies was a factor in a case won by easyGroup against Tim Holt, the owner of easyRealestate.co.uk, in an English court. Cooke quotes the judge in that case:

“[easyGroup] are not entitled to appropriate the word ‘easy’ and prevent any businessman from using any name which includes the word ‘easy’ […]. The test which requires to be established […] is the likelihood of deception […] not because the defendant has used the word ‘easy’.”

EasyGroup has not always won its battles for domain names incorporating the “easy” prefix. Holt, who also owned easy-jet.com, won a separate case against easyGroup, this one coming before a panel of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), on the grounds that he planned to use the domain name for a business selling ink-jet refills. The name now points to easyjet.com after, presumably, Holt sold it to easyGroup subsequent to winning his case.

Cooke has been warned that proceedings will be issued by easyGroup unless he stops using the easibook brand.