top of page
  • Writer's pictureRosie Burbidge

When is a company name a Lidl misleading?

Updated: Jan 1


The High Court has upheld two decisions made by the Company Names Tribunal in favour of the well-known supermarket Lidl.


Lidl objected to the Company Names Tribunal regarding a company named Lidl Logistics Limited. Section 69 of the Companies Act 2006 essentially says that a person may object to a company name that is similar to its own where its use in the UK would be likely to be misleading by suggesting a connection.


Two key issues

In his judgment, Mr Justice Michael Green addressed two main issues.


The first concerned whether section 69 applied to a company that was registered before the Companies Act 2006 came into force. Lidl Logistics Limited was incorporated on 7 December 2004, but has never traded. The Act came into force on 1 October 2008.


The Tribunal found that section 69 had retrospective effect. However, the judge said:


Section 69 does not seek to impose past liability for past events. It merely provides a mechanism by which the future use of a name can be controlled. The section only looks to the future and does not seek to make a company liable for past events, when it was not so liable under the laws existing at the time.”

He said that section 69 was unambiguous in that it did not operate or purport to operate retrospectively: “It only affects existing rights such as they are, prospectively.” Moreover, it provides all the protections necessary to prevent unfairness.


The second issue concerned whether Lidl Logistics’ use of the name adversely affected Lidl. The judge found that it did: the company’s owner, William Hogger, said that the company had not traded and he did not intend to trade it as he was 72 years old and retired. Given those facts, Michael Green J asked why was Hogger so “doggedly resisting” the change of name?


The judge concluded:

Mr Hogger gave no positive evidence about what his future intentions for the company were. There was, therefore, no evidence from which it could be concluded that it would be used in a way that did not adversely affect the respondent. Further, as Mr Hogger has kept the company registered for 18 years without trading and has fought these proceedings vigorously, it would be right to conclude that some future purpose for the company under the name must be contemplated.”

What does this mean?

The judgment provides clarity on the interpretation of section 69, and specifically that it does not operate retrospectively.


More generally, it provides guidance on how the courts will interpret cases of conflicting company names. Undoubtedly, Lidl’s position was strengthened by its portfolio of LIDL trade marks, more than 860 stores and 25,000 employees in the UK, and its reputation dating back to 1994.


Perhaps paradoxically, the length of time since Lidl Logistics’ name had been registered (18 years) counted against rather than for the company, as it indicated that the possibility of the name being misleading remained real.


To find out more about the issues raised in this blog contact Rosie Burbidge, Intellectual Property Partner at Gunnercooke LLP in London - rosie.burbidge@gunnercooke.com


Comments


bottom of page