Thursday 14 December 2017

Glee could be removed from UK TV – after Irish businessman scores court victory over name

The Cast of
The Cast of "Glee" accepts the Choice TV Show: Comedy award

Michelle Smyth

IT’S a smash hit television show - much loved by millions of fans around the world.

But an Irishman could be responsible for the record-breaking US show Glee being removed from UK screens after winning a classic David and Goliath battle against its owners.

Mark Tughan scored a surprise court victory when he sued 20th Century Fox over the hit-making show’s name which is the same as his chain of comedy clubs.

The Belfast businessman, who is now based in England, took on the Rupert Murdoch owned entertainment giant, arguing trademark infringement. He said that the exuberent show - which has spawned numerous hit singles - had been putting off customers at his comedy clubs.

He won the court case which means he could claim damages from Fox and also seek an injunction against Glee being shown in the UK.

His Birmingham-based company Comic Enterprises Ltd hosts four comedy nights across the UK and registered The Glee Club trademark name in 1999. The clubs have attracted top names such as Michael McIntyre and Jack Dee.

Glee - an all singing and dancing musical show about a group of teenagers in a high school Glee Club - was first shown here on E4 in 2010 and is now in its fifth season.

Mr Tughan said he was stunned to discover Glee while flicking through the channels in 2010.

"I warranted it to be serious enough to look into it and get to the bottom of what the hell was going on," he said.

He added: "When Glee was first broadcast on national TV in the UK...we knew that we had a problem. As a small independent company we had no way of competing against the advertising and marketing might of the Fox Corporation and knew that our brand and reputation for original and credible comedy and live music would be damaged."

The ruling means that as well as getting Glee banned from our airwaves, Mr Tughan could also get Glee merchandise and DVDs removed from UK shops.

Asked how he felt about winning, Mr Tughan said: "Relief is probably the main thing I feel. It is not so much a celebration. It was a David versus Goliath case. If I lost I would have had a huge blow. I didn't expect to lose. We suffered from confusion amongst the public. We also felt that having got a registered trademark, we were suffering illegally."

He added: "Most certainly an injunction may be on the table but there are a few days and weeks for calm heads to prevail."

After the court ruling, a victorious Mr Tughan tweeted: "A comprehensive WIN in our Trademark battle vs Fox, re. Glee Club name/Glee TV show. All counter claims+defences by Fox completely rejected."

Judge Roger Wyand QC, presiding over the case, ruled that the show "diluted and tarnished" the comedy club's reputation and infringed on its trademark.

Judge Wyand said he found Mr Tughan to be an "honest witness" and that Fox's continued use of the Glee name "cannot be in accordance with honest practices".

"The damage suffered by Comic Enterprises is caused by its venues being confused with the TV show and its potential customers being put off," he added.

A spokesperson from 20th Century Fox revealed the company is planning to appeal the decision and are "confident that as the case plays out, we will ultimately prevail.

“We remain committed to delivering Glee to all of its fans in the UK,” he added.

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