Outcome of CAFFUK trademark attempt to suppress BAFF

The 4-year bid by Combined Armed Forces Federation UK (CAFFUK) veterans to suppress BAFF has finally been seen off, after a series of rulings in BAFF's favour.

This tiresome saga is now at an end, but if any member requires more information, please click the headings below.

One-sided dispute

"Combined Arms Federation UK" ("CAFFUK", "CAFF UK") began their one-sided dispute in 2007 after being offered BAFF's cordial cooperation, and BAFF support (if they wanted) for their core campaign about the pre-1975 pensions grievance. BAFF had also offered to meet CAFFUK representatives to discuss cooperation.

BAFF hoped to conclude the pointless trademark dispute as quietly as possible, and is only now going public about it, in view of the CAFFUK approach to the awarded costs.

Also the CAFFUK website, which initiated the dispute with public demands and threats, still mentions even now "a lot of legal activity, challenging a group whom we believe have 'trespassed' on our organisational name. This has been seen as an important challenge..."

Combined Armed Forces Federation UK continued that "challenge" for four years, apparently against professional legal advice.

CAFFUK's representative made it clear throughout that the purpose of the trademark application was to prevent BAFF completely and permanently from operating. His actions after exhausting all legal avenues of appeal, along with the CAFFUK Committee's refusal to take any responsibility for the costs of the failed trademark application, undoubtedly did lead to real damage by demanding time and attention at a crucial juncture.

Unwarranted demands and threats

BAFF's opposition to the CAFFUK trademark application was in response to these demands and threats of legal action published on the CAFFUK public website at Christmas, 2007:

"The Title, Letterhead, Logo and Trade Mark of The Combined Armed Forces Federation UK (CAFF UK) is registered for copyright protection with the UK Intellectual Property Office.

"You are required by The Combined Armed Forces Federation UK to immediately remove the title, letterhead, logo and trade mark of BAFF (2006) Ltd from the entire public domain including its website and Company House registration.

"Any failure to comply with the above requirement and inform those to whom it may concern immediately, will be regarded as a continued act of piracy and an injunction will be applied for to prevent any further breach of copyright ..."

On investigation, it became clear that CAFFUK had not really registered anything with the Intellectual Property Office.

In reality CAFFUK had applied for trademark registration of its "Union Jack and crown" logo, and the design had been published by the Intellectual Property Office for possible objection.

CAFFUK's references to "copyright" were similarly unfounded. It appeared to believe that registration of its logo as a trademark would attach copyright to the words "armed forces federation", but copyright is not the same thing as trademark protection. The descriptive term "armed forces federation" was not capable of copyright protection, and in any case was already in use in the English language and had not been created by CAFFUK.

Defensive course of action

Although the trade mark applicant made a point of stating that CAFFUK had paid for the trademark application to be "scrutinised for approval" by legal Counsel, the legal position was that even if the application had succeeded, it could never have the effect which CAFFUK were hoping for.

There was never any question of BAFF attempting to use its own genuinely registered trademark in a similar manner, even if it had wanted to.

In view of the public nature of the demands and threats, however, BAFF decided to lodge a technical "opposition" to the application, on specified grounds under Trade Marks legislation. This option was intentionally lower-key than other defensive courses of action which were considered at the time, and was intended by BAFF to be less costly and less troublesome for all concerned.

Along with other obstructive efforts, CAFFUK pre-1975 ex-servicemen campaigned against a Private Member's Bill - the Armed Forces (Federation) BillArmed Forces (Federation) Bill - introduced by Kevan Jones MP to promote the principle of representation for today's serving personnel.

Trademark refusal, failure of appeal and recovery of costs

After a hearing at which both sides presented their arguments, BAFF's "trademark opposition" case was upheld and the CAFFUK trademark application was accordingly refused, with costs awarded to BAFF.

An unsuccessful attempt by the applicant to postpone the whole procedure indefinitely was followed by his appeal against refusal, which also failed on all counts after a second hearing the following year. BAFF was awarded the additional costs of the appeal.

As an unincorporated association CAFFUK had been unable to apply in its own right for trademark registration, but the trademark applicant had declared throughout that he was acting on behalf of Combined Armed Forces Federation UK, and with its full authority.

However, following failure of the appeal the CAFFUK Committee, having instructed and funded the unsuccessful application in the first place, and having used their website to initiate the dispute, declined to have anything to do with the awarded costs of the appeal, or the costs of the original application.

The CAFFUK Committee's approach to the costs arising from their actions added greatly to the waste of time on both sides, as well as to their representative's debt.

Having been left to face the music, the "Combined Armed Forces Federation UK" trademark applicant also refused to pay the awarded costs, and finally made two unfounded attempts through the courts to avoid lawful recovery of the now much increased debt.

The last attempt has now failed, and the full awarded costs have been recovered from the individual through lawful enforcement action, along with the additional court and enforcement costs.

Any prospective party to any future CAFFUK-sponsored legal proceedings, over their pre-1975 pensions grievance, may wish to note the obvious implications. As well as the Ministry of Defence itself, this might be relevant to any pre-1975 veteran invited to put his or her name to such legal proceedings. More info at Pre-1975 service pensions injustice - Update 2/2012 - Recommendation to BAFF pre-1975 veteran members.

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Posted in BAFF News Archive

Please note that the above article has been archived and is no longer updated.

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