24 October 2011

No goodwill for US dating site

The US online dating company Plentyoffish Media has had its claim for passing off rejected by the High Court in London.

The company was trying to assert rights over a UK registered trade mark for plentymorefish based on the fact that it had a reputation in the UK through high UK visitor numbers to its website but crucially it was held to have no UK customers.

It was held that Plentyoffish could not claim “goodwill” in the UK based only on high visitor numbers to their site and no UK members. The online dating website is free to use but no one based in the UK had signed up to become a member. They claimed that visitors to the site could be treated as customers because they were exposed to the site’s advertising. This argument was rejected because only visitors who had signed up were actually using the dating services being offered and therefore only members could be treated as Plentyoffish’s customers.

This shows that having an accessible website in the UK through which you can build a reputation is not enough for foreign businesses to be able to assert passing off rights in the UK. Goodwill is built through customers rather than just website visitors.

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