Corporate Minnow Breaks Monte Carlo Casino

In a case which proves that even corporate minnows can successfully fight off trade mark infringement actions brought by much larger operators, a small party gaming company has inflicted a stinging defeat on the owners of the world-renowned Casino de Monte Carlo.

The casino, famed for its clientele of high-rollers and as a popular film location since its foundation in 1863, forms the heart of a Monaco leisure industry with a turnover running into hundreds of millions of pounds. The company that owns it enjoys a state monopoly on the provision of casino gambling services in the Principality and is the proprietor of the trade marks ‘MONTE CARLO’ and ‘CASINO DE MONTE CARLO’ in respect of a wide range of goods and services.

The casino launched trade mark infringement proceedings against the party gaming company, a modest UK-based concern which – under the trading name ‘Monte Carlo Casino Entertainment’ – provided tables and croupiers for playing ‘fun’ casino games for the entertainment of guests at weddings and other events. The company also had a presence on Facebook and Twitter to which the casino objected.

The casino argued, amongst other things, that any perceived connection between it and the company’s ‘budget business’ was likely to damage its high-end reputation and that the value of its trade marks had already been significantly diluted and weakened by third-party activities.

In dismissing the casino’s claim, the Patents County Court noted that the party gaming company had been carrying on business under the trading name since 1995, but that the casino had only learnt of its existence in 2006. There was only a ‘moderate’ level of similarity between the company’s trading name and the relevant trade marks and there was no likelihood that an average consumer would be led into a mistaken belief that the company’s activities were connected to, or licensed by, the casino.

The casino also claimed that the company was guilty of ‘passing off’ – effectively, of making a trading profit based on the use of the name of the casino by misrepresenting itself as the casino.

This claim was also rejected. The Court found that there had been no misrepresentation by the company, whether by use of its trading name or any of the other signs concerning which complaint was made. There was no evidence of deception or of the public being confused into believing that the two operations were linked.

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