Orange dispute heads for court

Orange, the mobile phone group, said yesterday it was pressing ahead with its threatened legal action against easyGroup, the conglomerate founded by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, after the two sides failed to come to an agreement over the use of the colour orange before easyMobile's planned launch next month.

The two companies have been locked in talks for the past six months, after Orange expressed concerns its brand could be eroded by another mobile phone company using the same trademark colour. It claims to have sole ownership of the colour orange in the mobile phone market.

In a statement released yesterday, Orange said: "After six months of negotiations with easyMobile, we have been unable to secure a commitment from them not to infringe our rights regarding the use of the colour orange. Our brand, and the rights associated with it, are extremely important to us. In the absence of any firm commitment from Easy, we have been left with no choice but to start an action for trademark infringement and 'passing off'."

In response, Stelios, the founder and chairman of easyGroup, said: "I will see them in court. It is our right to use our own corporate colour for which we have become famous during the last 10 years. We have nothing to be afraid of in this court case. I believe their trademarks are invalid and we will attack them in court. Their suggestion that we are trying to 'pass off' as them is laughable. Not only will we not be 'passing off' as them but also we want everyone to know that they are our enemy."

EasyGroup said it will post a message on its easyMobile website on Monday, to clarify its position. The statement will read: "EasyMobile is not connected to Orange Personal Communications Ltd, the company owned by France Telecom, with whom we are in dispute over our right to use the colour orange, an essential part of our iconic brand."