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, wasteful 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 a pre-1975 pensions grievance. BAFF had also offered to meet CAFFUK representatives to discuss cooperation.

BAFF then 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, even under its company name BAFF (2006) Ltd. His actions after exhausting all legal avenues of appeal, along with his committee's refusal to take any responsibility for the costs of the failed trademark application, regrettably did succeed in causing real damage by demanding time and attention at a critical stage.

Along with other obstructive efforts, CAFFUK also encouraged their pre-1975 veteran members to campaign against a Private Member's Bill - the Armed Forces (Federation) Bill - introduced by Kevan Jones MP to promote the principle of representation for today's serving personnel.

CAFFUK unwarranted demands and threats

BAFF's opposition to the CAFFUK trademark application was in response to public demands and threats of legal action, which were published on the CAFFUK 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 UK Intellectual Property Office.

CAFFUK had in fact 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 reference to "copyright protection" was similarly unfounded. CAFFUK committee members may have persuaded themselves that registration of their logo as a trademark would attach copyright to the words "armed forces federation", but trademark registration is not the same thing as copyright protection. The descriptive term "armed forces federation" was never capable of copyright protection anyway, and was already in use in the English language, and not created by CAFFUK: see 'Armed Forces Federation' - Half a century 1966-2006.

BAFF defensive course of action

Although the applicant claimed during the dispute that the trademark application had been "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. No professional legal advice can have supported their strategy of using trademark registration to close BAFF down.

So 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.

The concern for BAFF was that if the trademark application was allowed to proceed unchallenged, CAFFUK would feel encouraged to intensify their groundless public demands and threats.

BAFF therefore 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.

Failure of CAFFUK trademark application and subsequent appeal

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

An unsuccessful attempt by the applicant to postpone the whole procedure indefinitely was eventually 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 couldn't 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 as its 'Secretary General'.

Despite those assurances, after the appeal had failed 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 take any responsibility for either 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.

Recovery of costs

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 prevent lawful recovery of the rapidly increasing 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 legal proceedings sponsored by CAFFUK, over their pre-1975 pensions grievance, may wish to note the obvious implications.

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