A ‘what's-in-a-name' legal battle over use of the word Titanic in the names of a Huddersfield spa and a Liverpool hotel has ended in success for the operators of the Huddersfield spa after they challenged the Liverpool operation's use of the name.
In a highly complex Titanic by name and titanic by nature judgment running to more than 15,000 words Mr Justice Carr has ruled on the bitter multi-faceted trade-mark dispute between two major hotel and property companies.
Property Renaissance Ltd who set up Huddersfield's Titanic Spa and Stanley Dock Hotel Ltd and Stanley Dock Properties Ltd who trade as and run Titanic Hotel Liverpool ran into stormy waters over use of the Titanic name.
The judge said the "battle" was over trade marks which include the name Titanic. He said Property Renaissance set up the Titanic Spa in the Edwardian former textile mill in Huddersfield which was known as Titanic Mills because of its size.
The spa opened in 2006, has 33 serviced apartments for overnight accommodation and its turnover last year was £4.8m. It had registered the name Titanic Spa as a trade mark in 2011.
However, the Stanley Dock companies opened the Titanic Hotel Liverpool in 2014 and included references to the hotel having a spa, referred to as "T-Spa."
It was after that, that Titanic Huddersfield launched its complaint about use of the name T-Spa. In December 2014 though, the Liverpool venture was re-named "the Spa" and in April this year there was further re-branding and was named the "Maya Blue Spa".
However, the judge said the Titanic Huddersfield still took action claiming that use of the word Titanic in the hotel name was a breach of their trade mark.
The judge said the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool was given the name because Doherty wanted to expand the "Titanic brand" to areas where there was a connection with the Titanic.
After detailed analysis the judge ruled that there had been infringement of the Titanic Spa trade mark as a result of the Liverpool hotel operation.
However, he said that steps already taken to change the name and further steps proposed would avoid the likelihood of future confusion.
In these circumstances he upheld the Huddersfield operation's claim that there had been "passing off" of their name Titanic Spa in the past. But he said that in view of the changes already made and proposed there would be no further "passing off" of it in the future.
He did not ban the Liverpool hotel from using the word Titanic though. He said they were "legitimately entitled to use the signs 'Titanic Quarter' and 'Titanic Quarter Hotel Liverpool' in relation to hotels in the UK.
But he rejected a claim by those behind the Liverpool operation that the Huddersfield operation's use of the name Titanic Spa had in fact breached its trade marks.
In summing up the case, the judge resorted to the words of one of the Titanic rescue heroes, Capt Arthur H Rostron to sum up the legal fight.
Capt Rostron wrote : "Icebergs loomed up and fell astern and we never slackened. It was an anxious time with the Titanic's fateful experience very close to our minds."
Mr Justice Carr said : " This seems a reasonable description of the commencement, continuance and possible outcome of this dispute."
He said both sides had valuable businesses and the "very high risk litigation" put in jeopardy the goodwill they had both build up.