By Jennifer Farley

Sky In Fisticuffs With Skype Over Trademark

By Jennifer Farley

It seems that British pay-TV group BSkyB has been in a legal battle with Skype for almost five years. The information only became public less than two weeks ago when Skype mentioned the legal action in the “risks” section of it Initial Public Offering (IPO). BSkyB which is often known simply as ‘Sky’ is challenging the registration of the trademark Skype because it similarity to the word Sky may cause confusion to members of the public. It seems that BSkyB believe they own the word Sky which is unfortunate for internet telephony provider Skype.

Sky’s case for “trademark infringement” was upheld by the European Union’s Office for Harmonization of Internal Markets (OHIM), when it ruled that Skype’s trademark and blue bubble logo were too similar to Sky’s name and branding. The EU judgment could mean Skype having to pay license fees to BSkyB in order to go on using its name and logo in some countries.


Skype’s blue bubbley logo


Sky’s glassy semi-transparent logo.

While the EU has ruled in favor of Sky on the logo similarity, Skype say “To date, we have successfully defended these oppositions in Switzerland and Turkey and to date have received a positive decision in Brazil.” A spokesman for Sky said “The key contention in the dispute is that the brands ‘Sky’ and ‘Skype’ will be considered confusingly similar by members of the public. This was supported by consumer research conducted by Sky.”

Does this mean BSkyB will filing actions against whisky or anything risky, frisky or husky? A similar story to this came up a few months ago, when Apple attempted to claim all things apple shaped.

Would you feel confused between these two brands, either in name or logo? Is this more corporation madness or do you think there is a valid concern here for Sky?

  • Niubi

    Gotta love Sky – they really are a bunch of obnoxious control freaks. Skype sounds nothing like BskyB. And the logos, apart from the fact they both contain the word ‘sky’ in them, are completely different! It’s MADNESS! Whatever next, eBay sue DubLi or any amount of other companies because they use the same colors in their logo?

  • I’m no legal expert, but “Sky” is an English word and can’t be trademarked. In addition, even if Skype called themselves “Sky”, they’re in a different market sector so there’s no real case.

    Only the lawyers will win this one.

    • PeteW

      I seem to recall thinking something similar when Apple claimed ‘Tiger’ a while back, too – quite fancied the idea of introducing corporate lawyers to a real tiger and seeing who won. ;-)

      As far as I can see, it works like this:
      a) Corporations often need legal advice, so they employ lawyers.
      b) Said lawyers happily build ridiculous/pointless cases, as they get paid for debate, not resolution.
      c) Corporations support such cases as they are a drain on their competitors’ resources.
      d) See ‘a’…

  • geektea

    How bizarre. Unless this is some kind of wierd publicity stunt (as I, for one, had never heard of BSkyB until this article), these folks are nimrods.

    And to answer your questions, Jennifer, yes, this is corporate lunacy and no, there’s no confusion between logos. If anything, Sky should own this and start including the ‘B’s before and after their company name. If they’re soooo concerned about people being confused, let them use their whole name instead of penalizing Skype for looking and sounding nothing like BSkyB. Sheesh.

    • pollythena

      Sky is the brand/product name whereas BSkyB is the corporate name, and even if they tried to change it to BSkyB everyone in the UK would still refer to it as Sky TV.

      And yes, they are nimrods.

  • powerpotatoe

    I do not see were any reasonable confusion may occur. Even if I though “Sky” and “Skype” where one and the same, a quick visit to either’s website would set me straight.

    It seems that a legal battle would work against Sky to the effect that a judge would rule that Sky should use it’s formal, legal name BSkyB, thus avoiding any potential and future consumer confusion.

  • jphilapy

    Yah those logos look similar!?!?!?! In both cases the s and y are the same height and aligned at the top and bottom. the k extends above the top of both letters and yah, the k is touching the y, ahem, a little.

    It is time for a mass lawsuit against all companies using letters of the alphabet in their name. For now on everyone needs to invent a unique language using a unique font type.

    Did I forget to mention, there is nothing relative about the word “similar”?

  • Ridiculous!

    1. The logos do now look anywhere near alike.
    2. The names don’t sound anywhere near alike.
    3. I’m sorry, but you can’t trademark the word sky. Are you gonna sue me next time I comment on what a nice day it is?

    When people decide to have fits like this over nothing, I wonder what’s wrong with the world.

  • egenius

    Sky and Skype are not similar.
    The people working at the European Union’s Office for Harmonization of Internal Markets are as delusional as the clowns from Sky that are contending any similarity.

    • config

      I can’t believe that “Sky” can possibly be trademarked, being an English dictionary word. It’s surely why Nintendo branded their console “Wii” instead of “We”.
      That’s clearly not stopping BSkyFoxNewsB corp from pay^H^H^Hlobbying Europe’s pseudo-gov for some backing on this pathetic case.
      Sky torpedoed Project Kangaroo and is trying to do the same with successor Project Canvas. Let’s go even go near to subject of competitor BSB’s encryption keys getting into the wild. Seem’s BSkyB’s approach to competition (let’s not doubt that they’re eyeing Skype’s phone packages and potential for VoD) is to stomp on it with legal shenanigans

  • Unit7285

    More Euro idiocy.
    More behind the scenes deals, secret alliances, contingent actions, career boosting, showboating, endless complication, pedantry and massive financial waste, in 27 languages and every combination of said 27 languages (or whatever enormous number it is).
    Common sense doesn’t get a look in when the EC gets involved!
    It would be interesting to see Sky’s survey data and find out precisely how they worded their questions to determine that many people are ‘confused’ by the similarity between Sky and Skype.
    Do people sit at their computers trying to watch TV with Skype? Do people try and talk with their relatives in Australia by shouting at their TV? Thought not…
    Oh, the depths corporate lawyers will sink to to make a buck…

  • nicklo

    Before the comments go too far into the “nimrods” it’s worth pointing out that the unfortunate issue with trademark law is the obligation on the trademark holder to be seen to actively defend their trademark or risk losing it. The above may seem petty but you probably need to look at the actual trademark details and check the trade categories it covers. If BSkyB/SkyTV’s trademark covers similar trade categories as Skype then that is what matters.

    Oh and I should mention I don’t have any legal background, I’ve just had experience of being in a similar position to the one Skype is in (albeit on a much, much smaller scale).

  • Darren Tidmarsh

    This makes me laugh, its not as if Skype is only a year or two old. If Skype every had to re-brand it would cost them a fortune. I’m on Skype’s side here, I use it every day and Sky pretty much just rips people off here in the UK. there’s promises of 20MB Broad Band.. get real lucky if you get 2mb depending on the area – I’m Virgin Media all the way!

  • Jeffrie

    Truly our world has gone mad. I can clearly see that Sky’s management has lost the utter drive for being a productive business. All that money, time, and effort being wasted in non-business improvement/empowerment. This type of decision is a testament that business and government can’t prioritize and categorize a business purpose and name. . I absolutely detest that Sky is more concerned with parlor talk than getting business moving to stimulate the economy. What a sham and a dance of egos.
    The only way you can humanly confuse the two is to a be a person of slow braille reading skills. Justice is supposed to be blind and unbiased, remember? Counter-Case in point: Cisco vs Apple atleast are grown up enough to agree to use their respective IPs of “iphone” without filing suit or involving outside help. Jesus, do you have to consult the police before asking the neighbor if you can put salt on your dish if the salt just happens to be from the same salt mine that the neighbor’s brand used? Dear Lord, aren’t we blessed with a little more common-sense or do we need degrees and certifications on how to make a decision anymore? There is a distinct line between blatant brand mislead and branding. Our languages core words are finite…you get that?…finite! How can you have a law or law system that can protect finite when the business that produce real world values are possibly infinite? What a futile waste of of man/woman hours. This is exactly what happens when business or people lose their purpose in life: They start teetering into the make believe and “could happen” worlds. Crazy people exhibit those same symptoms. Somebody, please send the Sky Management/lawyer team and the appropriate justice system to DisneyLand…maybe they’ll at least be happier in their make-believe land of empty-tea-cup drinking and empty-talk with stuffed animals. I can’t believe Sky came into being as strong company with a vision and mission only to go down an expensive and glorious path that deviates from it’s core purpose. They might as well given the patent rights to the music note “E” for Metallica and who do you think should own the color “blue”?

Get the latest in Front-end, once a week, for free.