IPC agrees to redesign in 'passing off' row


IPC has agreed to redesign its major new launch Web User after reaching an out-of-court settlement with rival publisher VNU which had accused it of copying its Computeractive.

The company has given permanent undertakings to the High Court on the future design of Web User, which launched with an ad campaign bearing the slogan "Rip-Offs Rumbled".

VNU claimed the look and content of Web User was similar to Computeractive. It launched legal proceedings alleging passing off against IPC and presented 20 witness statements from readers who believed Web User was associated with Computeractive. Similarity in cover design and use of distinctive features such as "workshops" were cited as among the main causes of the confusion.

A trial date was set for July but an agreement was reached out of court this week. IPC has given an undertaking that neither Web User nor any other new internet or computing magazine it publishes will include a title where the first half is in black and the second half in white, or where the cover has a sloping red masthead –two of the key design features of the cover of Computeractive.

Jim Lennox, launch editor of Computeractive, left VNU last year to launch Web User. Computeractive has been a major success for VNU, showing the third-highest sales growth of UK news-stand titles in last year’s ABCs. Its sales grew to 325,836 from 223,577 in 12 months, a 45.7 per cent rise.

Both magazines are aimed at "ordinary" people owning computers and both titles pride themselves on their use of plain English.

Juliette Parker, publishing director of VNU’s PC consumer division, said: "We have spent a lot of time and money on creating the Computeractive brand so we felt very strongly about protecting it."

IPC, which has already redesigned Web User, declined to comment.

By Ruth Addicott

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