Exxon Corp v Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd

Exxon Corp. v. Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd [1982] Ch. 119 is a leading decision in English law on the existence of copyright in a name alone and the infringement of a trade mark. The Court found that typically there is no copyright in a name, invented or otherwise, and that a trade mark can only be infringed when the infringing party shares part of the market segment.[1]

Exxon Corp. v. Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Decided12 June 1981
Citation(s)[1982] Ch. 119
[1981] 3 All E.R. 241
[1982] R.P.C. 69
(1981) 125 S.J. 527
Times, June 13, 1981
Cases citedDP Anderson & Co Ltd v Lieber Code Co, [1917] 2 K.B. 469 (KBD)
Hollinrake v Truswell, [1894] 3 Ch. 420 (CA)
Legislation citedCompanies Act 1948 s.18
Companies Act 1948 s.18(1)
Copyright Act 1956 s.1
Copyright Act 1956 s.2
Copyright Act 1956 s.2(1)
Copyright Act 1956 s.6
Copyright Act 1956 s.17
Copyright Act 1956 s.48
Copyright Act 1911 s.1
Copyright Act 1911 s.1(1)
Copyright Act 1911 s.35
Copyright Act 1842
Trade Marks Act 1938 s.9
Trade Marks Act 1938 s.9(1)(c)
Trade Marks Act 1919
Rules of the Supreme Court Ord.19
Rules Supreme Court Ord.19 r.7
Rules of the Supreme Court r.7
Case history
Prior action(s)Exxon Corp v Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd, [1981] 1 W.L.R. 624
[1981] 2 All E.R. 495
[1981] F.S.R. 238
(1981) 125 S.J. 342 (Ch D)
Subsequent action(s)None
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingStephenson, L.J.
Sir David Cairns, L.J.
Oliver, L.J.
Keywords
Literary works, Trade names


The Plaintiff, Exxon Corp, had claimed the copyright of the word and went on to file an injunction to stop the defendant company from using the word 'Exxon', under Exxon's copyright claim to its own name under English Copyright law, protecting 'original literary works' and further asked the defendant company to remove the word from the company name. However, Judge Oliver decided to not grant the injunction to an infringement of copyright and noted that the word did not qualify for copyright protection as an ′original literary work′.[2] This is because it conveyed no information, provides no instruction nor pleasure and is furthermore merely a combination of letters from the alphabet.[3]

Judge Graham quoted '"if the plaintiffs' argument is right .... the consequences would be far-reaching and probably in many cases objectionable'.[4] On appeal it was further emphasised by Lord Justice Stevenson that 'I am not sure whether this ["Exxon"] can be said to be a "work" at all; I am clearly of the opinion that it cannot be said to be a 'literary work[5]

Trade markEdit

With regard to the trade mark, the Court found that the use of this word by the defendants, who work in a field that in no way shares a market segment with the plaintiff, in no way dilutes the plaintiff's brand name nor infringes on its trade mark.[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Alexandra Allen Franks, Copyright protection for 'individual words of an invented language'
  2. ^ Alexandra Allen Franks, Copyright protection for 'individual words of an invented language'
  3. ^ Exxon Corp., Ch. 119 at 144
  4. ^ Exxon Corp., Ch. 119 at 123.
  5. ^ Ibid.at 143