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European court blocks Microsoft attempt to trademark Skype name, as it's too similar to Sky

Back in June 2013, Microsoft lost a trademark battle in the UK against News Corporation, owner of what was then known as British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), now Sky plc. News Corp had asserted that there was a high possibility of confusion between its Sky brand - which offers various mobile and web services as part of its portfolio - and that of Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service, and after considering an appeal against the court's ruling, Microsoft instead rebranded the service as OneDrive.

Fast forward to the present day, as Microsoft has lost a trademark ruling over its Skype brand in the European Union - although the immediate effects are far less problematic than those that led to the rebranding of SkyDrive.

As BBC News reports, Microsoft had been attempting to register a trademark for the Skype name and logo in the EU - but today, the General Court of the European Union (GCEU) prevented the company from doing so, on the grounds that the brand could potentially be confused with that of Sky.

Referring to the design of the Skype logo, judges determined that "conceptually, the figurative element conveys no concept, except perhaps that of a cloud. [That] would further increase the likelihood of the element 'Sky' being recognised within the word element 'Skype', for clouds are to be found 'in the sky' and thus may readily be associated with the word 'sky'."

In 2005, BSkyB complained to the European Union Office for Harmonisation of Internal Markets about the Skype brand, which ruled at the time that the similarities between the two brands were such that Skype could not be granted an EU-wide trademark. Microsoft had brought the case before the GCEU to challenge the ruling that followed the 2005 complaint, but the judges were not convinced and ruled against the firm today.

But unlike the later SkyDrive dispute, Microsoft is not currently facing any challenge that could potentially force the company to rebrand Skype under a different name. The ruling of the GCEU was limited solely to Microsoft's trademark application, as a spokesperson for the company explained to BBC News: "The case was not a legal challenge to Skype's use of the mark; it was only against the registration."

Sky acknowledged today's ruling, and said in a statement:

This relates to a long-running dispute with Skype over the extensions of its trademark applications to cover a broad range of goods and services that overlap with Sky's own trademark registration - including, but not limited to, TV-related products and services.

Our intention has been to protect the Sky brand with our research showing that similarities in name and logo have the potential to confuse customers.

Microsoft reportedly plans to appeal against today's trademark ruling.

Source: BBC News

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