The western Canada retail chain London Drugs has lost its bid to stop a clothing company from using the word "London" in the name of its menswear line.
The company claimed that customers might get confused between it and a clothing line called "Smith and Barnes London," which is marketed by International Clothiers.
But a Federal Court judge ruled against the B.C. retail giant, which sells everything from Aspirin to coffee makers, and upheld an earlier decision by the Registrar of Trademarks that London Drugs was essentially trying to monopolize the word "London."
The judge said customers were unlikely to mix up menswear with home appliances just because of the word London.
Trisha Dore, an expert with Accupro Trademark Services, says ferocious protection of brands can lead big companies into weird territory.
"Large companies are companies that are strictly motivated by their brands, and that is their identity out there in the marketplace," says Dore. "They will have a tendency to maybe stretch the limits of what their registrations may entail."
But Dore says the company does own a slew of related trademarks – from London Home to London Gourmet – giving them a lot of control over the word London nevertheless.
"I think there's a misconception that regular words can't be monopolized," she notes.
London Drugs has its head office in Richmond, B.C. and 78 stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The chain started out as a pharmacy on Main Street in Vancouver in 1945, according to the chain's website.