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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing