Newcastle United businessman and owner Mike Ashley is involved in a lawsuit with major street chain TK Maxx.
The chain’s owner, TJX UK, has complained of a trade name used by an affiliate of the retail empire of Mr. Ashley’s Frasers Group.
TK Maxx bosses sued a company in the group, Sportsdirect.com Retail Ltd, and complained about a “designer outlet company” called Brand Max.
Lawyers representing TJX UK have told a judge that the TX Maxx brand has trademark protection and that Max brand may cause confusion.
Bosses at Sportsdirect.com Retail Ltd disagree.
They argue that TJX UK cannot demonstrate any “infringement” or “transfer” and say its claim should be rejected.
Mr. Justice Miles considers competing arguments at a virtual Supreme Court hearing.
Simon Malynicz QC, for TJX UK, told the judge on Tuesday in a written case how TK Maxx was launched in the UK in 1994 and in Ireland in 1997, and now had over 340 stores in the UK, plus 26 in Ireland.
He said TK Maxx was known for selling well-known third-party brands at a discount.
“The defendant (a new arm of the Sports Direct empire) started a new business in April 2017 and wanted to compete with TK Maxx in the same niche,” he said.
“But instead of distinguishing itself from TK Maxx and adopting a name that would set itself apart and draw attention in a new way, suspect not only decided that the new company would have the look and feel of TK Maxx stores had to mimic but trade under the brand (Brand Max). ”
Mr. Malynicz added, “The suspect’s name and color scheme were clearly intended to induce consumers to associate their new offering with TK Maxx in various ways.
“It can cause confusion for the audience.”
He said that even if there was no confusion, at least consumers should make a link.
Iain Purvis QC, for Sportsdirect.com Retail Ltd, said in essence that the case was “simple”.
“The suspect’s signs differ from the plaintiff’s marks, except in one respect, the use of the letters” max, “he said.
Conceptually, the suspect’s signs are completely different from the plaintiff’s marks.
“Visually and auditory there is only a very low degree of similarity.”
He added, “The average consumer, a high street shopper, who is used to differentiating between different brands based on an assessment of their trade names and logos, will not get confused.
“Nor will they form a link between the suspect’s marks and the plaintiff’s marks.”