IP rights enforcement might be seen as a necessary evil. It depends who you ask.
However sometimes the companies who do the rights enforcement for big brands screw up and screw up badly.
A recent case involves the village of Copthorne, which is located in Sussex, England. The village has a population of about 5 thousand and has been around for about a thousand years (it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book which was completed in 1086).
Yet there is also a large hotel group called “Copthorne” who gets its name from the village in Sussex.
A couple of weeks ago MarkMonitor sent the village a takedown notice claiming that the village was in breach of the hotel chain’s trademarks and demanding that they take their website offline immediately. Here’s the full notice:
Dear Website Owner,
We act on behalf of our affiliate, Millennium & Copthorne International Limited (Company Registration No: 199600354R), a company incorporated in Singapore with its principal place of business at 390 Havelock Road, #02-01 King’s Centre, Singapore 169662 (“MCIL”).
MCIL holds the registrations of a number of well-known trademarks in the hospitality industry, including, inter alia, the “Millennium” and “Copthorne” brands. As you no doubt are aware, these trademarks, among others, are used to identify, advertise and promote products and services provided by Millennium Hotels & Resorts and, as such, have developed substantial goodwill and reputation around the world.
It has come to our attention that you have registered, without MCIL’s permission or authorization, the domain name [copthornevillage.org], which includes a protected trademark of MCIL. This unauthorized use of MCIL’s intellectual property falsely suggests MCIL’s association with or endorsement of your website and is likely to cause confusion in the minds of the public that the website is associated with or connected to MCIL and the products and services offered by Millennium Hotels & Resorts. As a result, substantial damage is likely to occur to the goodwill and reputation of these trademarks.
We require that you immediately disable all content hosted at copthornevillage.org and allow the domain name to expire. Please confirm by return that you have done so within five (5) working days of the date of this letter.
MCIL reserves all rights to take any further action to protect its intellectual property. Should you require additional information, please e-mail the Millennium Hotels & Resorts Brand Protection Team at email@example.com.
Obviously the village residents aren’t going to take their site down and are furious.
Eventually the hotel chain issued an apology and also assured the residents that MarkMonitor would also be issuing an apology.
More on the story here, here and here.
Hat tip to John Berryhill who mentioned the case on Twitter:
@markmonitor threatens UK village for using its own name… Classic: http://t.co/iYQ8C4Xnbt
— John Berryhill (@Berryhillj) May 3, 2015