Research key for start-ups

News that mobile phone manufacturer Nokia is suing a UK start-up over its use of the word ‘HERE’, suggests that new businesses should do sufficient research to ensure they are not accused of ‘passing off’ by firms already in existence.

The Lowdownapp is a digital personal assistant that lets users inform friends when they have arrived at a location by tapping the ‘HERE’ button. It has also released a standalone app called HERE for people to use to check in at particular places.

However, Nokia believes the term could be confused with the Finnish firm’s mapping and navigation app called HERE. Its legal team therefore wrote a letter to the start-up, informing the business that it has the word trademarked for use on computer software.

According to the letter, Nokia has invested heavily in building and promoting the brand since its launch, so Lowdownapp’s use of the HERE sign is likely to ‘deceive members of the relevant public’ such that they will believe its business is connected with or part of Nokia’s business, when that is not the case. The letter goes on to say that this amounts to a misrepresentation that will cause damage to Nokia’s goodwill in the UK and amounts to passing off.

The Chief Executive of Lowdownapp is understandably concerned by the letter and has said that he will probably have to remove his standalone HERE app but is seeking legal advice about the future of the ‘HERE’ button on the Lowdownapp.

However, he added he never thought that a multi-billion dollar company would have been affected by a small start-up trying to deliver value to users, saying “life is hard enough without Goliaths squashing Davids…”

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