A copyright claim launched against UK media owners and the Government may end up with a multi-million pound bill for the illegal use of the proprietary phrase “Brexit’©’, which was originally patented in the UK by French firm ADF Signage Systemes back in March 2012.
The signmaking company’s intention was to design an innovative British sign system to indicate Fire Exit routes.
Since then, the proprietary term has appeared 35,389 times in The Times of London, over 5 billion times in Google searches and is estimated to be uttered up to 500 million times a day according to recent research in the Evening Standard. The sum involved is now some £224 million and rising fast.
The legal challenge, lodged in Cardiff by France-based ADF, could net it millions in back-dated royalties for its intellectual property, which it claims has been breached repeatedly by public and private organizations over the last seven years. Under EU and UK Law, while members of the public uttering the term are immune from prosecution under a ‘fair usage’ exemption, commercial organizations including news outlets are believed to be liable.
Under previous case law, fair usage for the term, is 12p per mention, or part thereof. Some of the potential sums involved are considerable and it is not clear if individuals, or their employers, or sponsors, are jointly liable. Prominent examples of potential monies owed include:
Theresa May = £376,688.78 [Prime Minister]
Jeremy Corbyn = £56.784.23 [Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition]
Laura Kuenssberg = £147,689.07 [BBC Political Correspondent]
Fiona Bruce = £234,566.29 [Question Time presenter]
Danny Dyer = £44,226.28 [Actor]
Gary Linekar = £89,556.56 [Football Pundit]
*Estimated liabilities for illustrative purposes only
In addition to the UK media and public figures a large number of Remainer and Leaver fans in business may also face punitive damages for breach of copyright and intellectual property misappropriation and court cases are estimated at lasting 1009 days, the same amount of time required for MPs to hold three ‘Definitive Votes’ in the House of Commons.
The French-born founder of ADF Signage Systemes, Avril de Fou, commented: “The repeated use of our copyrighted term could be the best thing to come out of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. We were delighted to find out from our patent lawyers, that simply uttering the term “Brexit’©’ could add to our revenue, which had looked poor, given the current market uncertainty”.
Luckily, or unluckily, no one did actually copyright the phrase Brexit. Happy April Fools Day from the Business Matters team