Who's Suing Whom: Trademarking the millennium

Who's Suing Whom

THE HIGH COURT will rule this week on whether the word "millennium" can be trademarked. De Beers, the world's biggest diamond business, has applied to the court for a declaration that Alfred Dunhill, the luxury goods maker, cannot enforce the trademark Dunhill registered on the word "millennium" back in 1980. The judgement could have landmark significance, since a legion of "millennium" products are being planned.

De Beers is seeking an urgent ruling since it has already launched its "Millennium Diamonds" collection to mark the year 2000. Each diamond will be numbered from 1 to 2,000 and will have the name of a star etched on it. The diamonds will retail at over $10,000 each.

The row started in February when Dunhill wrote to De Beers complaining of trademark infringement. A preliminary hearing before Mr Justice Blackburn is set for this Thursday in the High Court.

Alfred Dunhill registered the word millennium as a trademark for watches and clocks in 1980, as well as a similar trademark covering jewellery. Tony Willoughby, partner at Dunhill's law firm Willoughby & Partners, said Dunhill was determined to fight the case.

Mr Willoughby said: "The trademark registry was perfectly happy to accept the word millennium as a trademark in 1980 when it was first registered. Alfred Dunhill has consistently used it as a trademark ever since and the mere fact that millennium, a noun, has recently entered the English language as an adjective does not invalidate the trademark."

Mr Willoughby added that Alfred Dunhill "is not seeking to stop legitimate descriptive use of the word millennium".

A LEGAL battle over a Midlands property scheme that went sour has prompted the trustees of the scheme to issue a protective writ against a London Docklands development by the same company.

The sponsor of the property schemes involved, Laser Richmount, was founded as a joint venture between Richard Ellis and Johnson Fry in the early 1990s to sponsor enterprise zone property trusts.

In February this year around 900 investors in the Laser Richmount (Telford) Trust launched a legal action against Johnson Fry, the financial advisers, and Richard Ellis, the property firm, alleging that investors had been misled by the original marketing material. Although around pounds 30m had been invested, the value of the property has fallen to a third of that figure.

Both Johnson Fry and Richard Ellis are contesting the action. The trustee of the Laser Richmount trusts, Barclays Bank, is launching a protective writ against the same firms over the "Laser Richmount London Trust 1991", a separate trust which invested in a series of buildings on the Isle of Dogs, in London's Docklands.

In its writ Barclays accuses the two firms of professional negligence and of making negligent mis-statements. Barclays has done so in order to avoid being "out of time" if it later decides it should take legal action over the London trust. It has issued, but not served, the writ, thus holding it "in reserve". The action would otherwise have been time- barred after three years from the date the alleged mis-statement was discovered. There has been no suggestion of investor discontent at the London trust.

Richard Ellis bought out Johnson Fry's stake in Laser Richmount four years ago. The property firm declined to comment, but it is understood that it is confident there are no problems with either the Telford or London trusts, and that it has no case to answer.

A Johnson Fry spokesman said that if Barclays did serve the London writ, the firm would defend the claim vigorously. "We do not believe we have a case to answer," he said.

Joe Palmer, chairman of the Personal Investment Authority (PIA), the financial regulator, was the original chairman of Laser Richmount. A PIA spokeswoman said Mr Palmer has had no link with Laser Richmount "for a number of years". A Barclays spokeswoman pointed out that the bank has sold its trustee business to Royal Exchange Trust Company, which will be dealing with any Laser Richmount-related matters in future.

LOSSES OF up to $2.5bn by a pool of insurers in the US insurance market have had a knock-on effect in London, prompting a British reinsurance firm to sue a Bermudan insurance broker for fraud.

The case stems from losses incurred by Unicover, a US insurance management agency, which ran a pool of five US life reinsurers (Lincoln National, Pheonix Home Life, Connecticut Re, Reliastar Life and Cologne Life Re), who reinsured workers compensation business.

This business has produced huge losses for the pool, leading to problems for other firms which took on some of the reinsurance risk.

Odyssey Re London has taken legal action against the Bermudan brokers Stirling Cooke Browne, concerning Unicover business passed on to it by Pheonix Home Life and Lincoln National.

Odyssey suffered losses of about $1bn on the Unicover business last year. Odyssey, which is owned by Fairfax, a US investment vehicle, claims it was not told of the true nature of the risks involved.

Stirling Cooke Browne is contesting the claim. The case is due to be heard in New York this year.

LAST WEEK's column referred to an underwriting agency, Weavers, that collapsed in 1993. It was described as a Lloyd's agency. In fact it was a London underwriting agency, and had no connection with Lloyd's.

Edited by John Willcock

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Associate Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Business Analyst

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Job Title: Business Analyst Rate: £300 - £350 per...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform