The respondent had built up a funeral directors business under the name of “Richard T Adlem Funeral Director”. In 1993 the respondent sold the business to a Mr Beckwith, who continued to use the name “Richard T Adlem Funeral Director”.
In 2000 Mr Beckwith sold the business and goodwill to the appellant. The appellant continued to use the name Richard T Adlem. The respondent assisted the appellant in the new business.
In 2001 the respondent re-commenced his own business under the name Richard T Adlem and subsequently started objecting to the appellant using the name. In 2002 the respondent succeeded in registering the name “Richard T Adlem Funeral Director” as a trademark.
In legal proceedings the appellant alleged that the respondent was passing off the respondent’s business as an undertaker as and for the appellant’s business. The appellant claimed that he had acquired title to the goodwill of the business and accordingly all the goodwill in the name was vested in him. The respondent was not therefore entitled to use the name and further the trademark registration was invalid.
The court at first instance held that the name did not denote either the appellant or the respondent exclusively – they had concurrent rights to use it and therefore the passing off claim failed. However the court held that the trademark was unenforceable against the appellant.
The appellant appealed against the first instance decision and the respondent cross-appealed against the finding of non-infringement of his trademark.
The court held that in 1993 the respondent had sold not only his business but also the goodwill attached to the name of the business. In 2000 this was sold on to the appellant. Accordingly it was now simply not open to the respondent to start a fresh business under exactly the same name without more. The respondent was under a duty to make it absolutely clear that the two businesses were distinct. n view of the above finding the respondent’s trade mark registration was also invalid.
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Full case details*
I N Newman Ltd vs Richard T Adlem
21 June 2005, Court of Appeal, Civil Division, Lord Justice Tuckey, Lord Justice Arden, Lord Justice Jacob  EWCA 741 (Civ)
This case illustrates the problems that can arise in relation to trading names. What seemed particularly important in this case was that, pursuant to the initial sale in 1993, the respondent had received a substantial sum for the goodwill attached to the name of the business. In those circumstances it was perhaps perceived to be unfair if he was then allowed to continue to use the name, especially in circumstances where it was highly likely to cause a substantial number of people to believe he was conducting the original business.