Newsquest wins 'passing off' dispute with rival farming title after two-year legal battle

Newsquest has won a two-year legal battle after a judge dismissed claims that one of its titles had infringed a rival’s trademark.

The case revolved around Newsquest’s 2011 launch of The Southern Farmer as part of its Farmer series of titles.

Kent-based Evegate Publishing claimed the new title infringed the trademark in the masthead of its own farming magazine, South East Farmer, and consequently damaged the goodwill associated with the more established title.

Evegate sought damages from Newsquest for “passing off” the magazine title and trading name.

However, Judge Sarah Asplin today rejected the claim after finding insufficient evidence that there was a risk of confusion between the two titles. She also rejected a counter claim from Newsquest, allowing Evegate to keep its trademark registration.

The judge also highlighted Evegate sales director Jamie McGrorty as “an evasive and unreliable witness”. McGrorty did not accept that he had made phone calls to advertisers encouraging them to provide evidence that there was confusion between the two rival titles. Justice Asplin said his evidence cast doubt on the company’s claim.

She added: “Not only does this go to Mr McGrorty’s credibility but also affects the weight to be given to the evidence in question”.

Speaking after the case, Newsquest’s head of legal, Simon Westrop, said: “This was an action that should never have been brought.  From the outset, more than two years ago, we warned Evegate that their claim against Newsquest was misconceived.  It brings us no great satisfaction that we have been proved right.  And for Evegate, the high cost of failure will only have been made more painful by the court’s criticisms.”

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