In 2021 the hotel chain Premier Inn (part of Whitbread PLC) announced that ‘Rest easy’ would form a key part of its brand identity going forward, as can be seen from their 16 April 2021 media release:
Premier Inn have even filed their own trademarks using the ‘rest easy’ brand.
Many members of the easy family of brands are already offering hotel accommodation services thereby competing with Premier Inn in a major way. Not only does, easyHotel.com, offer hotel accommodation in their owned/leased or franchised hotels but also many other easy brands promote accommodation services as part of their offerings (easyJet offering hotel rooms as well as easyHoliday.com or easyRoommate.com or easyStay.com). It should therefore be quite clear that as a result of nearly three decades of use the easy family of brands has built a substantial reputation in the hotel business.
easyHotel.com which allows users to book low cost hotel rooms all throughout Europe.
There are two major legal sins surrounding Premier Inn’s actions:
Firstly, Premier Inn’s use of ‘easy’ in this way makes a direct acknowledgement of easyHotel and the easy family of brands, that unfairly takes advantage of all our efforts in business activity.
Secondly, by allowing any third party using easy in this way to promote their own business clearly dilutes our easy brand. How Premier Inn would react if easyHotel extensively started using ‘Premier’ to promote its hotel services? Say easyHotel Premier!
In general our experience is that major companies normally do not encourage confusion with other major brands but instead work hard to avoid any such confusion.
Before easyGroup commenced proceedings it asked Premier Inn to engage in sensible discussions to try and resolve the matter amicably. easyGroup is still prepared to do so if Premier Inn is willing to acknowledge easyGroup’s concerns.
Accordingly, easyGroup felt it had no option but to commence legal proceedings against Premier Inn to ask the court for a ruling on its use of ‘Rest easy’ to compete with easyHotel.
Premier Inn Rest easy Branding
Premier Inn Rest easy messaging from a recent advertising campaign.
The recent Lidl/Tesco decision is a useful illustrative example as to how taking elements of a competitor’s branding can constitute taking unfair advantage.
We believe Premier Inn has done the same with its use of ‘Rest easy’.
Premier Inn has now filed its Defence and Counterclaim. Premier Inn denies infringement. However Premier Inn acknowledges that easyHotel has a reputation in relation to hotel services in the UK and, wisely, has not challenged the use of the easyHotel or easy(fig) marks in relation to hotel services.
In what is seen as a very obscure area of law, Premier Inn’s counterclaim is limited to an attack on series marks per se, arguing that despite the existence of series marks in the UK system for many many years, they should be prohibited as a general rule. However, even Premier Inn agrees that this technical argument is not even open to them before the lower court and has requested that their counterclaim should be stayed pending any appeal. The fact that Premier Inn is already planning its appeal should be of interest to all students of IP law.