Monday 19 August 2019

'Little Trees' car air freshener firm sues Ryanair over 'infringing registered trademark'

Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA

Tim Healy

The company whose founder created the "Little Trees" car air freshener claims Ryanair has infringed its registered trademark.

Julius Sämann Ltd says the airline used an image for its car rental service which is virtually identical its Little Trees trademark for its product used the world over as a vehicle air freshener. 

The Little Trees air freshener was created in New York, USA in 1952 by Julius Sämann, a German-Jewish chemist who fled the Nazis. 

He had worked in the Canadian pine forests researching the extraction of aromatic oils from pine needles. He got the idea for the air freshener after a conversation with a New York milk truck driver who complained about the smell of spilled milk in his vehicle.

In Commercial Court proceedings, the company, with an address in Switzerland, says the stylised tree image was used by Ryanair in its car rental booking service and contained in emails sent to customers.

It seeks damages or an account of profits in relation to the alleged use of the trademark by Ryanair.

The airline says it has ceased using the image and does not intend to use it again.

However, Julius Sämann Ltd says Ryanair was not prepared to give an undertaking not use it again.  Its response was "go away and stop bothering us", Julius Sämann Ltd's counsel Paul Coughlan told the court.

The company, counsel said, was seeking a declaration that the trademark had been infringed. His client did not know how many of the images had been disseminated in emails.

It wanted the court to determine not only there had been infringement but deal with its claim for compensation, he said.

Mr Justice Robert Haughton said "with some reluctance" he was admitting the case to the fast track commercial list as it was a commercial dispute.  

He made directions for exchange of papers between the parties and adjourned the matter to later this year.

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