IP Rights: Netflix facing claim over ‘Easy

The founder of easyJet, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is reportedly suing Netflix over comedy series ‘Easy’. He claims the streaming of the series in the EU breaches the trademarks held by easyGroup. The group has over 1,000 trademarks including “easy” and a series of trademarks with “easy” as the prefix.

The show, which has recently commissioned a third series, has a star-studded cast including Orlando Bloom, Zazie Beetz, Emily Ratajkowski and Dave Franco.

In order to succeed in the claim, easyGroup would need to show that using ‘Easy’ as the title of Netflix’s television show amounted to trade mark use, in other words that it was being used to denote trade origin of the series rather than simply as a title. It would also need to show that use of the word Easy by Netflix caused confusion with easyGroup’s registered trademarks, and/or took unfair advantage i.e. was riding on the coat-tails of Easygroup’s marks’ reputation. Similarly, any claim for passing off would need to show misrepresentation, that consumers would (wrongly) assume that the series was endorsed or licensed by easyGroup and caused loss.

A court would look at whether any of easyGroup’s trademarks are in the field of television or broadcasting. Whilst easyJet is the most well-known of easyGroup’s brands, others include easyHotel, easyGym, easyPizza and easyProperty. Whilst it might be argued that most consumers may well think of other areas when they think of easyGroup brands, with over 1,000 trademarks, the group clearly covers a range of goods and services. The group will also need to be using those marks – if the marks are over five years old but have not been used for those particular services within the last five years the group could be challenged and at risk of losing the protection of the registered marks in that field.

Sir Stelios said: ‘“We own the European trademark for the word ‘easy’ and another one thousand trademarks with easy as a prefix and we can’t allow people to use it now as a brand name.’

Netflix responded: ‘We’re looking into it but think viewers can tell the difference between a show they watch and a plane they fly.’

The claim will be watched very closely by television, film and other content producers, as well as rights holders. zoom-in will report on any further developments.