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I've been sued by Oracle for company name under the provisions of section 69(0) of the Companies Act 2006 (the Act) in The Company Names tribunal in the UK.

My company name is JAVASCRIPT CONSULTING LTD.

Tribunal decision: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/company-names-tribunal-decision-javascript-consulting-ltd/decision-on-javascript-consulting-ltd

Did anyone had similar issues?

How could I resolve this situation?

I would be grateful for any advice.

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    How did it happen that you missed the postcard of delivery attempt around Nov 28, and the refusal on Feb 10? Did a deliverer arrive and you said "No I don't want that"? Did they not have a current address? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 27 at 21:08
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    I am confused. What does this have to do with copyright? – Jörg W Mittag Sep 27 at 21:51
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    Since you gave Company House an address for your company, is that an address where you would be able to receive mail? If not, change that as soon as possible. – gnasher729 Sep 27 at 23:55
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    For future reference, the first step to having a chance in a lawsuit is showing up to court so you avoid losing by default. – mbrig Sep 28 at 5:16
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    FWIW you may want to consider anonymising this post (the company name and the decision). Company information is public and I can trivially locate your full name, address, previous address, nationality, occupation, and date of birth. If you don't mind that being linked to this question, then ignore this comment. – JBentley Sep 28 at 7:53
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History of the case

Javascript is a trademark of Oracle since 1996/1999. Anything that can cause confusion of origin or endorsement is thus infringing on the trademark of Oracle.

A company explicitly named after a product of another implies to be endorsed, so Oracle sued that company under S69(1) of the Companies Act 2006 in November 2019.

The company did not respond to any level of the lawsuit, which meant they did not contest any arguments - the even refused to take the mail1. It was their duty to show, that they fulfilled one of the provisions in Section 69(4), which could grandfather their name.

As a result, the complaint was upheld as a matter of law (last sentence of S69(4)), Section 69(5) did not come up to the test as there was no response. The tribunal ordered the Company to need to rename and pay the fees.


1 - Regarding the keywords used by Royal Mail: "Not called for" is applied to mails that would not fit into a letterbox and nobody was available to sign for them. A postcard to get redelivery arranged or pick it up at the post station is deposited instead. If not called for within a specified timeframe, it is returned to the sender. "refused" is applied to mail that is explicitly denied at the door by the receiver and then returned to the sender.

Next steps: GET A LAWYER!

Whether this situation is salvageable is very much dependant on the specifics we don't know. It is a question for the lawyer employed by the respondent as the respondent needs proper legal advice from a licensed professional now. Respondent might also want to familiarize themselves with the rules of the Company Name Tribunal and if there is an appeals process available so they can ask their lawyer for more specific advice about the situation. They should be honest to their lawyer and tell them the whole situation.

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    There is an appeals process, I don’t know if it can be used for “didn’t bother showing up and objecting”. I would have thought this was nearly a slam dunk for the defense, but it’s hard to win when you don’t show up. I don’t know on what grounds you appeal a decision based on “didn’t bother showing up”. – jmoreno Sep 27 at 17:45
  • @jmoreno that's why I pointed to hiring a lawyer if the process is available in this specific instance. The decision was based on "Did not respond, so did not oppose the application." - The Company Names Adjudicator handling this case seems to have cases dating back to at least 2018 - really?! someone named their company like another company and thought that might fly?! Anyway, they have about 200 cases under their belt on that listing. – Trish Sep 27 at 18:09
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    Similarities in the name is not a barrier to winning a case, nor is trademark, ghosting the tribunal on the other hand...I would agree that if there is any chance of winning this case, it would involve an excellent lawyer.My point was that background doesn’t match the question, the OP has lost a suit, and not because the other party is a huge corporation. For anyone else researching what to do when sued because their name includes JavaScript the answer isn’t to try to find the best lawyer money can hire or give up because of this case, it is to, at a minimum, show up and say I don’t agree. – jmoreno Sep 27 at 22:52
  • @jmoreno the minimum you should do is reply, yes, because not replying means, in this specific case, you do not defend and loose by default. – Trish Sep 28 at 0:09
  • Note that this was not a trademark-related remedy, but rather a "similar name" remedy under the Companies Act. I've posted an answer to go into more details. – JBentley Sep 28 at 7:42
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The simplest way to "resolve" this situation is to

  1. Change the name of your company to something that doesn't contain or resemble the word "javascript" and
  2. Pay £800 costs to Oracle.

The alternative is to appeal to the High Court, but you would need a lawyer who is an expert in company law and some reason to think that an appeal is likely to be successful.

The third option is to ignore this, and have bailiffs knocking on your door.

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Firstly, this had nothing to do with trademark or copyright infringement as the question and one of the answers suggest.

This was an action taken under Section 69(1) of the Companies Act 2006 which states:

A person (“the applicant”) may object to a company's registered name on the ground (a) that it is the same as a name associated with the applicant in which he has goodwill, or (b) that it is sufficiently similar to such a name that its use in the United Kingdom would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the applicant.

This is referring to the requirement in Section 66(1):

A company must not be registered under this Act by a name that is the same as another name appearing in the registrar's index of company names.

In other words, Oracle must have a registered company which they have alleged your company name is similar to and that one of the conditions in Section 69(1) applies. They did not need to establish that there was any trademark or copyright, although the existence of such might have helped their case.

Schedule 3 of the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 contains details of what does and does not constitute a "similar" name to an existing name.

Once Oracle made the application, the burden of proof was on you pursuant to Section 69(4) of the Act to establish on the balance of probabilities that one of the following applied:

(a) that the name was registered before the commencement of the activities on which the applicant relies to show goodwill; or (b)that the company— (i) is operating under the name, or (ii) is proposing to do so and has incurred substantial start-up costs in preparation, or (iii) was formerly operating under the name and is now dormant;or (c) that the name was registered in the ordinary course of a company formation business and the company is available for sale to the applicant on the standard terms of that business; or (d) that the name was adopted in good faith; or (e) that the interests of the applicant are not adversely affected to any significant extent.

The sub-section goes on to state that

"if none of those is shown, the objection shall be upheld"

So, what you should have done within the time limit, is to raise one or more of those defences. If you had managed to establish one successfully, then pursuant to Section 69(5) the burden of proof shifts to Oracle who would have to show that:

"the main purpose of the respondents (or any of them) in registering the name was to obtain money (or other consideration) from the applicant or prevent him from registering the name"

Failing that, then you would have won your case pursuant to Section 69(6):

If the objection is not upheld under subsection (4) or (5), it shall be dismissed.

In future, you should be aware that the worst possible thing you can do when facing a court claim is to ignore it. That is very unlikely to make the problem go away, and if the matter does end up at trial, you will probably lose if you haven't submitted a defence.

As stated in the other answers, your options are two-fold:

  1. Comply with the order by changing the name and paying the costs.
  2. Appeal under Section 74(1) of the Act. You must do this within 1 month of 10 September 2020 so you should not waste any time if this is your intention. You also need to notify the adjudicator that you have done so in order for them to suspend the order under Section 74(3), failing which you may need to comply with the order while the appeal is conducted. Given that you submitted no defence at the time you will probably have to have a very good reason (e.g. they used the wrong address for service) for your appeal to be heard.
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  • I'd be grateful for feedback from downvoters. Having been party to such an action that was settled out of court, I'm fairly confident in the accuracy of this answer, but welcome any suggestion to the contrary. – JBentley Sep 28 at 9:11
  • You don't need to hold a company of that name, a trademark does suffice. Someone having a trademark on XKCD in computers could complain about XKCD Corp. – Trish Sep 28 at 9:20
  • @Trish Yes, but that would not be an application under Section 69)1) CA 2006, which is only for applications relating to similar company names. To bring a trademark case you would need to apply to court. In the case I settled, I was threatened with both types of application. Typically the claimant will prefer an action under S69(1) if the name similarity is applicable in addition to a trademark issue, because the former is much simpler to establish and cheaper to bring. Trademark claims can get a lot messier and more expensive. – JBentley Sep 28 at 9:23
  • I have not received any correspondence previously, I become aware about this incident yesterday morning. I wouldn't ignore the issue of such matter but what happened is already done. Thank you everyone for very valuable advice i really appreciate. – mike Sep 28 at 9:54
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    @mike If you didn't receive it and it is their fault you didn't receive it (e.g. they wrote the wrong address on the envelope) and you can prove it and you can establish one of the grounds in this answer, then you probably have good basis to appeal. However if you didn't receive it because it got lost in the post, or you don't check the mail at your company's registered office frequently, or some other such thing, you may struggle. – JBentley Sep 28 at 10:03

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