UK Court Backs United Airlines in Trademark Ruling

 - July 1, 2011, 4:13 AM

A UK court has ordered Bangladeshi carrier United Airways to stop trading under its current name after a June 24 ruling in London that it had illegally violated the trademark of U.S. giant United Airlines.

The small Asian airline has 35 days to repaint its nine aircraft and 30 days to change its name in the UK. London is one of only seven international destinations served by United Airways, the others being Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Jeddah and Bangkok. The UK court ruling also requires it to post a statement on its Web site (www.uabdl.com) acknowledging that it has infringed the United Airlines trademarks, but as of press time it had yet to do so.

United Airlines has yet to state whether it will pursue similar legal action in other countries where both airlines operate, but it seems unlikely given the legal complexities involved. The Three New Square law firm, which specializes in intellectual property cases, handled the case in the UK, but it remains questionable whether Asian and Middle Eastern courts would afford the U.S. company the same degree of trademark protection.

At face value, it is hard to see an obvious similarity between the branding and livery of the two carriers. United Airways uses a lavish array of colors to decorate its Airbus A310, McDonnell Douglas MD-83, ATR 72 and Bombardier Dash 8 Series 100 aircraft. By contrast, United Airlines, which last October merged with Continental Airlines, uses a far more conservative blue and white branding.

Formed in July 2007, United Airways as of the end of last year held total net assets worth approximately $59.8 million, while achieving a modest operating profit of $1.7 million. United Airlines reported $8.7 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of 2010, when it achieved an operating profit of $1.8 billion.