Microsoft loses SkyDrive trademark case in UK, Europe

Microsoft loses SkyDrive trademark case in UK, Europe

Summary: A court has ruled that Microsoft has infringed upon British Sky Broadcasting's trademarks, and so may be forced to rebrand the cloud-storage service.

TOPICS: Microsoft
sky microsoft skydrive court case trademark

A British judge has ruled that Microsoft's SkyDrive trademark infringes upon British Sky Broadcasting branding in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), partly owned by News Corp., won the judgement in the England and Wales High Court against the Redmond giant over infringing the "Sky" trademark.

The case began in June 2011. BSkyB's original complaint is below, according to court filings:

"This is an action for passing off and for infringement of two registered Community trade marks (CTMs) and two UK registered trade marks (UKTMs) for the mark 'SKY' by which the Claimants seek to prevent the Defendants from using "SkyDrive" as the name for their cloud storage service throughout the European Union."

After an eight-day trial in April, the presiding judge Justice Asplin ruled that in relation to the "average consumer," there is a likelihood of confusion and it is possible that the general public may believe that Microsoft and Sky's businesses either stem from the same source or are economically linked.

Surveys, interviews and recordings of confused SkyDrive users who rang the Sky helpline were reviewed to analyze whether the "average consumer" could become confused by the opposing trademarks. When asked whether the SkyDrive trademark and Sky services were linked, some of the responses issued were:

"It's just SkyDrive so I would assume it is something to do with the Sky the company. Obviously I'd have to read what's there to know whether it is or it isn't with Sky tying into a major brand."

"Sky is one of the largest brands in the world at the moment. As simple as that."

"I guess drive indicates you're linking up with something on the Internet."

"Well you are storing on a virtual hard drive it's a play on words. Some people may find it confusing if they are not IT literate."

BSkyB is one of the largest providers of paid television subscriptions in the U.K. and Europe. Sky has begun providing mobile applications and online streaming services to try and expand its large customer base and remain competitive in consideration of what the average consumer now expects. These new services also happen to use cloud-based technology. In addition, the company used to offer its own cloud-based storage service, Sky Store & Share, before closing in December 2011.

Although Microsoft admitted there was "some similarity between broadband provision and cloud storage," the tech giant plans to appeal the ruling. Even if SkyDrive brings Sky's services to mind, Microsoft believes that "on grounds of descriptiveness for cloud storage services," four Sky trademarks should be invalidated, and so has issued a counterclaim.

As a consequence of the ruling, Microsoft may be forced to rebrand the cloud-storage service. However, as the businesses are distinct, a fee may be imposed instead -- which would allow the tech giant to keep its cohesive brand rather than start from scratch in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • One has to wonder ...

    ... after the METRO and now the SKY fiasco, whether MSFT's trademark search database has any entries for companies outside America ;-)
    • Who would have thought

      that the words sky and metro could be trademarked to where no one else can use it?
      Kinda lame if you ask me.
    • How about ...

      ... Microsoft Access Controller ... any good? ;-)
    • Sort of like the iPhone fiasco

      where Cisco actually trademarked "iPhone", but Apple completely missed it, and they're INSIDE the same country.

      Here, nobody trademarked "skydrive", instead the ruling says that "SkyDrive" could be confused with "Sky" the local TV company in parts of Europe. It's an opinion only, unlike 2 similar products with the exact same name.

      Big difference
      William Farrel
  • Sky

    Sea would sound catchy...
  • Wow, they really go in with both feet.

    I wonder how many millions this debacle will cost stockholders.
    • I don't know? how much did it cost Apple when after all their branding

      they found that Cisco trademarked 'iPhone" long before Apple did? (talke about really go in with both feet. I wonder if people got fired?)

      So adjust for inflation, and take it from there. But at least here you can see it's a big difference, but we expected you to spin it accordingly.

      It's what you're paid to do. ;)
      William Farrel
  • How the hell

    can you trademark 'sky'?
    This is ludicrous.
    • It's really a toss up, so you can never know till after the fact.

      Sure the company has a trademark on "sky" for their name, but they can't obviously trademark sky, to where a roalty is paid for use in a sentence like "the sky is blue".

      But used in context along the lines of their previous branding, some judge's opinion may see it that way as used in the context of similar services in a sense.
      William Farrel
  • Stick with what you already own

    Call it "Zune Cloud"