Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ukulele rivals fretting over name

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performs at the BBC Proms
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performs at the BBC Proms
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain seen performing at the BBC Proms

A British ukulele orchestra has won a High Court duel with a German rival which uses an English name.

The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain has persuaded a judge that it has been damaged by the emergence of the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra - which is based in Germany but made up of British musicians.

Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain bosses claimed that the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra, set up in 2009, was unfairly causing confusion amongst fans - and alleged "passing off".

Judge Richard Hacon today ruled in favour of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, which was founded in 1985, and said its "passing off" claim had succeeded.

Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain founder George Hinchliffe said he was "absolutely delighted" by the ruling.

"We have worked hard for 30 years to create a unique show and the court has now recognised that copycat musical performances cannot trade off the reputation of established groups," he said.

"This case has raised important issues."

He added: "We have an international and celebrity fan base who have stood by us and who will be very pleased."

Mr Hinchliffe had told the judge of a "large number" of instances where people had been confused.

He said on one occasion the "social secretary of the British Ambassador in Luxembourg" had heard that the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra was playing in Luxembourg and had mistakenly emailed the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain asking if it could "play at the ambassador's residence to entertain guests at a tea party".

Bosses at the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra disputed the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain's "passing off" claim.

But Judge Hacon, who had analysed evidence at a trial in the specialist Intellectual Property Enterprise Court - which is part of the High Court, in London - today made a ruling in favour of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain.

"I am satisfied that the evidence adduced in support of the likelihood of confusion ... establishes that ... use of the trade name 'the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra' misrepresents to a substantial proportion of the public in this country who recognise 'the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain' as the trade name of a particular musical group, that the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain and the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra' are the same group or are otherwise commercially connected," said the judge.

"I am also satisfied that this has caused damage to the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain's goodwill, particularly by way of loss of control over the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain's reputation as performers."

The judge made no damages award.

Judge Hacon had been told that the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain had played more than 1,000 concerts in UK since 1985 and performed alongside Robbie Williams, Cat Stevens, Madness and the Kaiser Chiefs.

The orchestra given a performance - which led to "some controversy" - on BBC Radio 3 in 2009 as part of the BBC Proms.

It had also been the focus of questions on the television quiz University Challenge and an answer to a crossword clue in the music newspaper New Musical Express.

The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain had lost an initial round of its fight with the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra.

In September 2014, Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain bosses had taken legal action weeks before the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra was due to start its first British tour.

They had asked for an injunction preventing its rival from using the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra name pending any trial.

United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra bosses said any injunction could unfairly force the cancellation of the tour and cost them tens of thousands of pounds.

Judge Hacon refused to grant the injunction after lawyers representing the rivals traded licks at a hearing in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

He ruled in favour the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra and said the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain should have acted sooner.

After that hearing, Peter Moss, musical director of the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra, said: "Our view has always been that we never, ever wanted to have competition with the other side ... We wish them well.''

Press Association

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