I have to confess that when I first heard the news that Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB has launched a legal challenge to Skype I thought April Fool’s Day had come early, not least because the basis of the case is that the company claims to own the “Sky” in “Skype”.
But it transpired that the case was genuine and that BSkyB has been ensconced in a legal battle with Skype for the last five years. The news only emerged after a brief reference to the case in the 250-page document announcing Skype’s Wall Street flotation.
A Sky spokesman said: “The key contention in the dispute is that the brands ‘Sky’ and ‘Skype’ will be considered confusingly similar by members of the public.”
To which I can only reply that I have never linked the two and can’t think of anyone who has. But it seems that the EU has upheld Sky’s complaint and, should Skype lose its upcoming appeal, the company may be forced to change its name.
One wonders if others who have had the temerity to use the word “sky” in their work will now fall foul of the Dirty Digger.
Update: BSkyB have been in touch to point out that the dispute concerns several trademark applications filed by Skype, including, but not limited to, television-related goods and services. Were Skype’s name to appear on a set-top box it’s fair to say that Sky would have a better case. But I’m sure most people could make the distinction.
Sky may claim their customer research suggests members of the public would be confused by the similarity but the key question is this: did any of them consider ‘Sky’ and ‘Skype’ similar before they were asked?