Olswang acts in millennium row

Olswang lawyers are in a race against time to prove the word “millennium” cannot be trade marked.

Olswang has served proceedings on behalf of De Beers diamond company against Dunhill over the use of the word millennium. The case could herald a spate of actions between companies vying to protect marketing opportunities presented by the celebrations.

Dunhill has registered the word and an M-logo as trade marks for a range of its products, including watches and clocks, to commemorate the millennium.

De Beers, however, is hoping to launch its Millennium Diamonds collection to mark the year 2000, but has been told by Dunhill that this title is unacceptable. Olswang served proceedings in the High Court on 12 May.

“We say that the word 'millennium' is manifestly descriptive and falls into the same category as the word 'Christmas',” says Andrew Inglis, a partner at Olswang.

“To put millennium in front of a product name is, as far as we are concerned, a right and proper way of commemorating the millennium,” he says.

He says De Beers believes using the word in its commemorative diamond range is not taking away another company's rights.

“De Beers felt it was necessary to have the issue resolved as quickly as possible. We are in the middle of May and the millennium is not too far away,” says Inglis.

“It is a major issue if there is some question as to how someone like De Beers can market commemorative material relating to the millennium.”

The British Jewellers Association is also concerned that the word millennium has been registered to just one company and has been taking legal advice from Royds Treadwell.

Tony Willoughby, partner at Willoughby & Partners, who is representing Alfred Dunhill, says that the firm is now considering the papers from Olswang and De Beers and would discuss the case with counsel next week before the hearing later in the month.