By Jeremy R. Azrael, Richard Löwenthal, Tohru Nakagawa

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Case study: Wagamama v Rajamama A Japanese restaurant in London trading as ‘Wagamama’ successfully sued to prevent another London restaurant trading as an ‘American theme restaurant with Indian decor and food’ under the name ‘Rajamama’. ‘Wagamama’, which means ‘selfishness’ or ‘wilfulness’ in Japanese, is quite meaningless so far as an English speaking public is concerned, much as an invented word would have been. Much of ‘Wagamama’s’ business is likely to come from oral recommendation, however, and the judge considered that this meaninglessness increased the significance of customers imperfectly distinguishing the name from one which is phonetically similar.

Mere notification of the existence of a patent does not amount to a threat falling within this provision, but almost anything more than notification does, so ‘cease and desist’ letters and letters before action in patents cases need to be drafted with extreme care, as the case of Ingledew Brown shows. If it is proved that actionable threats have been made then the alleged infringer can obtain an injunction to stop the threats being repeated and damages for any loss caused as a result of their having been made.

Disclaimers such as ‘These goods are fakes’ or ‘Brand copies’ will not assist a counterfeiter in escaping conviction (as they did before the Trade Marks Act 1994 came into force). Enforcement Trading Standards Departments It is the duty of Trading Standards Departments (TSDs ) (part of every local authority) to enforce these provisions. TSDs have the power to make test purchases and more importantly to enter premises and seize documents – effectively Anton Piller powers without the costs. But the duty to enforce is relative, not absolute – and enforcement sometimes becomes a question of local politics.

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