By Heidi Gibson
A war of words between two retail clothing giants Truworths and Ackermans over the use of the words “The Look” ended up with the Supreme Court of Appeal ordering the removal of the phrase from the register of trade marks.
This week the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld that the trade mark phrase “The Look” was not distinctive enough – in the fashion retail industry – to set itself apart from the universal understanding and therefore it should be removed.
Earlier Truworths Limited had tried to stop Ackermans from using the words “The Look for Less” in its shops saying that it had registered the word “the Look” as a trade mark in 1998 and this practice was infringing on the boundaries of the trade mark. The company had applied for an interdict against Ackerman and this was upheld by the Western Cape division.
But then Ackermans took the matter up with the Supreme Court of Appeal and everything changed.
Judge CHG van der Merwe said, “The mark has no figurative element. Its words have a generic descriptive meaning in general use in the industry. Truworths can have no monopoly over these words. “On the evidence, the mark consists exclusively of words that serve to designate the kind of goods in the trade … The evidence similarly established that the mark consists exclusively of words which have become customary in the current language of the trade.”