It isn’t every day that those with connections to other realms find themselves in the High Court contesting the validity of trade marks, but as has been said many times recently, these are not normal times. Perhaps they are paranormal times.
Last week, HHJ Melissa Clark handed down an interesting, albeit not groundbreaking, judgment in relation to the right to use the phrase “Archangel Alchemy”. It is a lesson in the value of registering rights, and being sensible when looking to enforce them.
Claire Stone, a UK-based author and spiritual therapist, ran online “metaphysical education” courses under the name “Archangel Alchemy”, aiming to connect clients with archangels. Not simply relying on the protection of angels, she was also the registered proprietor of the UK trade mark for ARCHANGEL ALCHEMY, filed in October 2019, and registered for the not altogether easy to decipher services of “Training course - for soul development - yogic sciences - quantum physics - altered states of awareness - relaxation - holistic health - celestial beings - natural living.”
The Claimant accused the Defendant, Alexandra Wenman, who is also a spiritual therapist and author, of infringing her trade mark through her use of the phrase “Archangel Alchemy”.
The Defendant claimed to have offered holistic education and therapy services under the “Archangel Alchemy” name since 2010, and as such claimed to have accrued goodwill in relation to the mark that entitled her to invalidate Ms Stone’s trade mark and counterclaim for passing off.
The case boiled down to whether Ms Wenman could have prevented Ms Stone using ARCHANGEL ALCHEMY when Ms Stone started marketing her business on 7 September 2019, such that Mr Stone’s trade mark was invalid and her activities constituted passing off.
The judge found that she could and they did. Ms Wenman had been using the name “Archangel Alchemy” at various points from 2010, including in an astrological magazine, national and international events, workshops, courses and retreats. This was sufficient to give Ms Wenman significant goodwill in the name, and she relied on Ms Stone’s own case that it was “inevitable” that the marks would be confused, given that both the marks and the services were identical and the parties had a similar customer base.
This meant that Ms Stone’s trade mark was invalid, and that she was in fact liable for passing off.
On the face of it, it is an unsurprising outcome. Ms Stone was aware of Ms Wenman’s earlier trade under the “Archangel Alchemy” sign, likely at the latest when the defence was filed. Ms Stone’s case was that Ms Wenman’s use of the mark was not ‘trade mark use’, that it was of insufficient scale to generate goodwill, and that the goodwill had dissipated by 2019. On the evidence, that was clearly not the case.
The case has an interesting post-script too. Ms Wenman took to social media to express her relief at her victory. Ms Stone took umbrage with the terms in which she did so, and had her lawyers write a strongly worded letter. The post remains live.
For all those reasons, I am satisfied that the Defendant's services were carried on under and/or by reference to the Defendant's Signs prior to 7 September 2019 were sufficient to generate goodwill in the Defendant's Signs as at that date.