Health Secretary John Reid has launched a legal battle to stop publisher Cyworks from using the NHS name in its magazines, directories and websites.
He fears that the public will be confused into believing the publications – including NHS Mother and Child and NHS Family Choice – are connected with the NHS when they are not.
According to a High Court claim, Cyworks has implied that its specialist medical directories and magazines are official NHS publications. The claim states that the company has repeatedly claimed to be part of the NHS when requesting information from NHS trusts, staff or third parties.
Now Reid is seeking a High Court injunction banning the company, which is based in London’s Golders Green, from using the NHS name.
He also seeks an injunction banning Cyworks from claiming that any of its products are official NHS publications, or that they have authority from the NHS or Reid to collect information.
As well as four magazines, the company publishes directories, internet databases and four online publications. which all start with the initials “NHS”.
Reid said the company was exploiting the goodwill and overall reputation of the National Health Service in a bid to increase advertising revenue.
He added that using the NHS name in publications alongside advertisements and advertorials could give the misleading impression that the NHS endorsed the products advertised.
And he said that their acts of passing off damaged the NHS’s reputation as the source of authoritative independent medical expertise.
Cyworks chief executive Nadia Sclare said the company was determined to fight the action.
She said: “We have been in the business of publishing independently-gathered data and information about the NHS for close on 15 years. During that time the majority of our publications have been compiled for and supplied to NHS employees and healthcare professionals and have not been intended for public consumption.
“As a consequence of changes to DoH policy we now face court action in connection with the use of the letters ‘NHS’ in the titles of our publications.
Having built a successful business and reputation around those titles and sites this legal action poses a real threat to
the company’s future.
“Cyworks has been dismayed by the decision to launch this legal action after the company has been running for so
many years and has regularly received contributions from such senior people in the NHS as the Secretary of State for Health and the ceo of the NHS.
Cyworks will defend itself against any allegations that it set out to exploit the NHS name and brand.”
Reid is not seeking any financial damages from the company.
UPDATE 5 July, 2010: A spokesman for NHS Online TV has contacted Press Gazette and told us that the Secretary of State for Health withdrew his action and Cyworks were awarded full costs which were paid by the Department of Health.