Who's suing whom: Duke defends his family domain

THE Most Noble John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer- Churchill, Eleventh Duke of Marlborough, has taken legal action against a firm based in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, over the right to register "BLENHEIM-PALACE.CO- .UK" as a domain name on the Internet.

The Duke of Marlborough's home is, of course, Blenheim Palace, at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The Duke issued a writ on 25 August against Amicus Research & Management Ltd, and Geoffrey Louis Pidoux, of 24 Plane Tree Way, Woodstock.

The writ says that the Duke is "the proprietor of the goodwill and reputation in the United Kingdom in the trade mark `BLENHEIM PALACE' .

The writ, issued via solicitors Withers, says that the defendants "registered the Internet domain name `BLENHEIM-PALACE.CO.UK' on or around 16 July 1997 in the name of the first defendant, without the consent of the plaintiff (the Duke), and who have by letters to the plaintiff's solicitors dated 23 July and 6 August 1998 threatened to use that Internet domain name in a manner intended to appropriate the goodwill of the plaintiff ..."

The Duke applies in the writ for injunctions to restrain Amicus Research using the domain name concerned, from establishing or operating a web site in that name or from offering that name for sale to anyone other than the Duke.

He also applies for injunctions to stop the defendants relinquishing the registration of the domain name without giving him seven days' notice first, from registering any further names which include "Blenheim Palace", and from passing off any goods or sevices as being authorised by the Duke.

The Duke's writ also asks for an order for payment to him from the defendants "not to exceed pounds 10,000".

A SUBSIDIARY of the Abbey National has launched an appeal in the High Courts against a decision by the Inspector of Taxes concerning the tax treatment of some of the subsidiary's investments.

The bank issued a statement to The Independent about the case last week saying: "A company in the Abbey National Group (Abbey National Baker Street Investments) invested in certain securities.

"The Inland Revenue disagreed with the company view as to the tax treatment of the securities, and the case was heard before the Special Commissioners [of the Inland Revenue] who decided that the Abbey subsidiary's appeal failed."

The bank concluded: "Abbey National has appealed against the decision to the High Court. The matter is not material to the group." The bank lodged a motion to appeal on 26 August, and a hearing is expected soon.

PLAYBOY Enterprises of Chicago, Illinois, and its affilliated business Playboy Entertainment Group of Beverley Hills, California, have applied for an injunction to stop eight British businesses from using the trademark Playboy "rabbit head" design.

The British defendants in the legal action include Sport Newspapers of Melton Road, Thurmaston, Leicester.

The American Playboy business empire, founded by Hugh Hefner, has issued a writ in the London High Court via solicitors Lovell White Durrant and dated 12 August.

The writ seeks an injunction stopping the defendants from "distributing, selling, offering, advertising or exposing for sale or supply, video cassettes ... or business stationery the First Plaintiff's trademarks PLAYBOY, RABBIT HEAD DESIGN, PLAYMATE (and) PLAYMATE OF THE YEAR ..."

The defendants include Screen Multimedia of Maddox Street, London; City Trading, of Barking, Essex; Palan Trading and Palan Distribution of Kingsway, London; and the proprietors of three "private shops" at Brewer Street in Soho, Forest Road in Walthamstow and Upton Lane in Forestgate respectively.

PORTSMOUTH Football Club has launched a writ against ASICS UK, a company which has supplied playing kit to the club's players, and JJB Sports, which has supplied replica kit to supporters.

The club's writ, issued on 18 August, refers to various agreements between it and the defendants to produce kit featuring the club's logo between 1995 and 1997.

The writ also refers to an earlier dispute in 1997 when ASICS claimed it was owed money by the club.

The Club alleges that the defendants produced clothing featuring the Club's logo after the various sponsorship agreements had expired, and demands an injunction to stop them doing so. The writ, issued by solicitors Hammond Suddards of Manchester, also asks for damages.

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