After Brolly v Travelers, here are six more insurance brand and marketing spats that made the headlines

Direct Line

The news last month that insurance giant Travelers had objected to insurtech startup Brolly using an umbrella as its logo got me thinking.

As reported, Brolly was not the first company to suffer the wrath of Travelers, with UK player Legal & General also getting a sternly-penned letter from the US insurer's lawyers in 2013.

But Travelers is not the only insurer to either object or face objection to some brand/marketing related activity, as these six stories from the Post archive demonstrate.


Aviva v Aviva [2002]
To be fair to Aviva this never got further than a few terse words in Post when then insurer - then known as CGNU - announced its name change.

At the time the media was quick to point out the existence of several companies that already use the brand, including US incontinence pad maker Dr K International.

Another organisation already using the name Aviva in the early noughties was the international feminist webzine www.aviva.org, whose European editor Kate Burke told Post: "I'm horrified that an insurance company are taking the name Aviva. We are an international feminist webzine, so coming from a completely different place.

"Aviva is the Hebrew word for spring - and is often a girl's name. Viva is of course 'life' in Latin - so we liked the rough translation 'to life'. Most of all, we just liked the sound of the name, and the fact that it is a palindrome is interesting for design purposes."

One presumes the insurer had the same thoughts.

More embarrassingly for the company was the fact that a business called Aviva already existed 300 yards from the Aviva headquarters in Norwich in the shape of a dress boutique owned by Annie Catlin.

Expedia v Expedia Services [2004]
This trademark dispute between a medical reporting company and the online travel giant was resolved out-of-court in 2004.

Expedia Services then changed its name to Premex, but insisted this did not happen as a direct result of the settlement, but due to its decision to diversify its business and expand into the rehabilitation arena.

Premex CEO Simon Margolis told Post: "We didn't have to change our name as a result of the agreement. The rebranding had to happen as we decided to expand the business."

Direct Line v Esure [2005 - 2008]
This is one of the most infamous brand conflicts during my time at Post, given extra prominence because it featured insurance entrepreneur Peter Wood's new business - Esure - against a former one, Direct Line.

The dispute basically came down to Esure making a trademark application for a computer mouse on wheels , which Direct Line objected to.

On 13 December 2006 the TMR agreed with Direct Line that Esure's mouse on wheels infringed its telephone on wheels registered trade mark.

The TMR said that Esure's image could confuse the public due to its similarity with its rival's long-standing brand icon. It also stated that "the applicant's mark is likely to take unfair advantage of, and/or cause detriment to the distinctive character and reputation of the earlier marks".

The matter did not end there though, with the patent fight moving onto the High Court of and ultimately the Court of Appeal, where Direct Line was again unsuccessful, even though the judge in the former agreed with Esure on the substantive point that there would be no likelihood of confusion between the mouse on wheels and Direct Line's telephone on wheels.

One presumes Direct Line had far less objection to Michael Winner.

Direct Line v Markerstudy [2005]
Direct Line was involved in another little marketing spat in 2005, although one which was resolved a lot quicker.

It featured an online clip in which Markerstudy's four directors including Kevin Spencer and Gary Humphreys chased Direct Line's red phone and Esure's then brand ambassador Mr Mouse in cars. The [admittedly lo-fi] animated sequence ended with Mr Mouse and the red telephone crashing offscreen.

At Direct Line's request, Markerstudy removed the clip. However, Esure, then embroiled in the above legal battle, commented: "We found the clip quite amusing and did not ask Markerstudy to remove it."

Groupama v Heath Lambert [2009]
This disagreement revolved around a marketing slogan, in this case Heath Lambert's 'big enough to deliver and small enough to care' strapline, that then CEO Adrian Colosso boasted reflected the firm's "ethos".

Unfortunately for the broker it bore a striking resemblance to Groupama's own marketing line, 'Big enough to deliver, small enough to care', that it had been using since 2005, when the insurer had it trademarked.

Having called on Heath to desist from using the line in future marketing, Colosso and Groupama CEO Francois-Xavier Boisseau discussed the issue.

But Groupama was again riled when Heath publicly claimed both parties had agreed the broker could drop the word 'Big' from the slogan and use 'Large enough to deliver, small enough to care' instead.

The insurer insisted this was not the case, and Heath did a U-turn by accepting no such compromise was ever reached.

Primo Plc v Qmetric [2011 - 13]
This all started after an Essex-based insurance broker lodged a formal complaint against Primary-owned Qmetric for using the ‘Primo' trading title, which it claimed was its brand name first.

Robin Foster-Taylor, managing director of Southend-on-Sea-based Primo Plc told Post his company had traded under the name a decade before Qmetric even started its Primo Insurance.

He then claimed Qmetric CEO Tony Deacon has already rebuffed an "invitation" to change the Primo Insurance name and subsequently handed in a "notice of threatened opposition" against Qmetric under the Trade Marks Registry of the Intellectual Property Office.

Deacon hit back saying Primo Insurance was not yet registered and was, therefore, "open to application", adding: "Qmetric has applied to have Primo Insurance as a trademark. Should Mr Foster-Taylor have an issue he should take it up through the appropriate channels."

However, at an Intellectual Property Office tribunal in London in March 2013, Qmetric was refused an application "in its entirety" to register the Primo Insurance name following objection from Primo plc.

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