A gin company sought to register ‘VERA LYNN’ in respect of alcoholic beverages. As you would expect, Dame Vera Lynn objected to this registration on the basis that consumers may assume an association between the gin company and the entertainer. The gin company claimed that ‘Vera Lynn’ was well-known as Cockney rhyming slang for gin and therefore Dame Vera Lynn could not object.
The Registrar disagreed on the basis that no evidence had been provided to show that ‘Vera Lynn’ was understood by the general public to be an alternative for gin. The opposition was therefore successful and the application refused trade mark protection.
Had the gin company succeeded in demonstrating that ‘Vera Lynn’ was well-known to the public as gin, it would have raised the question as to why one company should have the exclusive rights to the mark. A trade marks core purpose is to distinguish one undertaking from that of another, acting as a badge of origin, which is not possible if a mark is considered descriptive or generic.
Having relied on unregistered rights to oppose, Dame Vera Lynn has since sought to register her name, both DAME VERA LYNN and VERA LYNN, as a trade mark in respect of a variety of goods and services (albeit not gin).
A gin company has been ordered to pay Dame Vera Lynn £1,800 in legal costs after losing a case to trademark the singer's name for its drink.