Real magazine is facing a claimed legal bill of £1m after rival mag Red took it to court in a copyright row over similarities between their logos.
The case, which was due to go to trial on Monday, was settled after Real agreed to change the magazine's logo and pay costs in a case where Red argued its masthead — with its cursive R lettering — was being "passed off" by its rival in the women's market.
The legal bill is now a matter to be settled between Real's original owner, Bauer, and its current publishers, Essential Publishing, which was bought by German company Burda last month.
Luke Patten, MD of Essential, confirmed that "responsibility for costs is joined between us and them [Bauer]" but refused to say how it would be divided.
He said the total legal bill of £1m, mooted by Red's publisher Hachette Filipacchi after it revealed costs of over half a million, was "inaccurate".
The last-minute halt to proceedings came after more than two years of legal wrangling. Bauer redesigned the title before selling to Essential; now Real has agreed to redesign its logo within 12 weeks and a relaunch is planned for the end of the summer.
Patten said: "This case hadn't been going anywhere for two years, it had just been hanging around. It was decided since we were going to change the logo and branding anyway, the case had to be settled — it was the only logical conclusion."
Hachette gathered 16 readers from its databases and subscription lists who were willing to testify that they bought Real, confusing it for Red.
Lawyer Chris Hutchings of m law, acting for Red, said this was pivotal to its case: "It was a way of identifying confusion in the marketplace rather than doing some artificial test, which is the way these things are usually done."
He added: "People in the past haven't had the courage to defend their ideas or copyright, whether it's their logo or particular style of layout in the magazine.
This will cause publishers to think twice about getting too close to others."
Kevin Hand, Hachette chairman, said: "I am thrilled that Hachette has finally reached settlement at the 11th hour, literally before going to trial.
I wish new owner Burda every success with the rebranded title when they relaunch it."
In December 2004, the High Court rejected a challenge by IPC and Ideal Home magazine against Highbury Leisure relating to design details of Home, its rival interiors title. In the first case of its kind to go to court, the judge ruled that IPC had fallen "far short of making out its allegation of copying".