EasyMobile.com, a no-frills service run by easyGroup in partnership with Dutch telco TDC, claimed to have sparked a "mobile war" when it entered the UK market. Orange sued over its use of the colour orange – an action that easyMobile.com described as absurd. Virgin Mobile declared that its offering contained "hidden nasties" and made "a complete mockery" of easyMobile's promise of no hidden charges – which easyMobile.com dismissed as a panic reaction by Virgin.
And now The Carphone Warhouse has provoked Stelios with its website at easiermobile.com, a name it registered on the day that easyMobile.com launched.
The site – still live at the time of writing – consists of one page only, showing an image of a jet plane in the green and white livery of 'fresh,' the mobile service from The Carphone Warehouse that takes on easyMobile.com's pricing plan. Beneath the image is the message:
"The Carphone Warehouse doesn't try to run airlines, it sells mobile phones. Fresh, the mobile phone service from The Carphone Warehouse, has established itself as the cheapest in the market and with our new 'triple your top up' promotion, we offer calls to any network for 5p and any text for 1.7p How easy is that?"
The only mention of Easier Mobile in the page is its title: "Easier Mobile from The Carphone Warehouse". The page links to the sales pages of The Carphone Warehouse – with no further mentions of 'easy' or 'easier'.
EasyGroup IP Licensing Limited – owner of 500 trade marks and ever-vigilant guardian of all things 'easy'– took a cybersquatting claim to the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Its action was against PSINet UK, an ISP which appeared to have registered the name on behalf of The Carphone Warehouse.
EasyGroup pointed to the reference to airlines and the fact The Carphone Warehouse service is known as 'Fresh' – not EasierMobile.com. It also said that its rival had registered the keywords "easyMobile" and "easiermobile" on Google and Yahoo!, "in a further attempt to redirect internet users".
The Carphone Warehouse countered that Stelios cannot monopolise the descriptive and generic words 'easy' and 'mobile', that his company does not have registered trade marks in easymobile, and that, given it only launched in March 2005, easyMobile.com cannot be described as "well-known". It also said the reference to airlines was lawful comparative advertising.
WIPO panellist Nasser Ali Khasawneh, a lawyer from Dubai, reckoned easyGroup had trade mark rights in easyMobile.com, viewing it in the context of the other 'easy' businesses. He also reckoned that The Carphone Warehouse had no rights in easiermobile.com – viewing its website as "an obvious mocking referral" to easyGroup's "famous easyJet business." Convinced that the name was registered primarily to disrupt a rival's business, he ordered its transfer.