London’s traditional black cabs have been dubbed as ‘devoid of inherent distinctive character’ by the High Court. Justice Arnold stated that the taxis are “merely a variation of the typical shape of a car” and ruled that trademarks exclusively relating to its shape should be deemed invalid.
The judgment was made on 20 January, 2016 after a legal dispute arose behind a new eco-friendly cab between Metrocab (manufacturer of the traditional London taxi) and The London Taxi Company (manufacturers of the black cab). The ruling opened the doors for the new the “green” taxis to take over London’s roads over the next few years.
The Judge also reasoned his decision “I should make it clear that, if one considers the question from the perspective of the average consumer of cars, in my view the CTM would be perceived as merely a variation of the typical shape of a car.”
The London Taxi Company, owned by Chinese group Geely, claimed the new Metrocab “substantially copied” the design of the TX4. The Company failed to claim their exclusive right to the shape of the traditional black cab following a High Court hearing in London. The Metrocab on the other hand, is a hybrid-powered taxi developed by Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive. The vehicle uses an electric battery and a petrol engine to produce zero-emission, extending the range of the battery.
The Judge overthrew all allegations made by the London Taxi Company as “deeply implausible” and stated that even if the trademarks were valid, Metrocab was not a copy of the TX4. The London Taxi Company has been operating since 1899 with their iconic black cabs becoming one of the symbols of London. A fleet of these black cabs was featured in the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. Last year the cabs were voted as London’s favourite transport “design icon” in a survey conducted by Transport for London (TfL) and the London Transport Museum.
As if The London Taxi Company did not already have enough problems, the rise of Uber, the car-hiring smart-phone app has been another blow to the company’s business.
The Metrocab will go to mass production later this year and the mayor of London is to ensure that all new taxis are zero-emission by 2018. Geely vows to invest £250 million to greener and more eco friendly versions of the classic cab.
The chief executive of the London Taxi Company Mr. Peter Johansen voiced, “We are understandably disappointed by the judge’s ruling. We will review the ruling to determine our way forward.”