This week’s top news stories include: Chanel loses trademark lawsuit against Huawei, Clubhouse is valued at $4bn, TikTok is being sued over data protection breaches against children, Banks commit to achieving net-zero emissions, and more.
Legally Possible’s top news story of the week: Chanel Loses Trademark Lawsuit (point 5)
1. CMA CONCERNED OVER ASDA TAKEOVER
The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) has voiced concerns that the £6.8bn takeover of Asda by billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa could lead to higher fuel prices in 37 different localities. This is because the EG Group, owned by the Issa brothers and TDR capital, has 395 UK petrol stations while Asda owns 323. The CMA’s concerns direct to the fact that many of Asda’s and EG Group’s petrol stations are located in the same place.
Joel Bamford, the CMA’s senior director of mergers, said: “Our job is to protect consumers by making sure there continues to be strong competition between petrol stations, which leads to lower prices at the pump. Right now, we’re concerned the merger could lead to higher prices for motorists in certain parts of the UK”.
It is likely that EG Group will sell off the forecourts of concern to allow the deal to pass. However, it is thought that Asda’s new owners are unlikely to increase fuel costs for Asda’s petrol stations as its traditionally cheap prices are key for drawing in shoppers.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
The change of ownership adds to the uncertainty faced by Asda’s staff, with the chief executive and its chief financial officer having announced they will be leaving. Just a few weeks ago, Asda said it planned to stop baking bread in its stores, putting 1,200 jobs at risk. The latest shake-up comes less than two months after Asda said 5,000 jobs were at risk from the closures of two warehouses and back-office changes.
Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock
2. CLUBHOUSE VALUED AT $4BN
Clubhouse, the new social audio app, has achieved a valuation of $4 billion after running a funding round, meaning its valuation has tripled since January. The social media app is invite-only and allows its users to host virtual rooms for live discussions. It has seriously grown in popularity in the recent lockdown and has had talks attended by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, and Elon Musk, who founded Tesla and SpaceX.
Twitter was in talks to buy Clubhouse, but talks recently broke down.
Harvey Morton, digital expert and founder of HarveyMorton.Digital, says: ‘2020 was the year that everyone started a podcast, but if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a podcast guest or host, Clubhouse is like a giant interactive podcast discussion.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
The success of the invite-only, year-old audio platform, which recently reported 10 million weekly active users, has demonstrated the potential of audio chat services, particularly as people have been staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also perhaps demonstrates how users enjoy the social interaction and discussions with others through audio-only means. It removes the pressure of ‘showing up’ well-presented, as you would need to for platforms such as Instagram, and allows users to have free-flowing discussions without the social pressure.
Due to its success, we may now see other social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter create similar functions within their apps.
3. BANK OF ENGLAND CONSIDER ‘BRITCOIN’
The Bank of England and the UK Treasury are exploring a national digital currency, as interest in digital markets is on the rise. Dubbed ‘Britcoin’ by the media and also in a tweet made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the new currency would be issued by the bank in conjunction with cash and deposits. A new taskforce will be set up, called the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which will explore the benefits, risks and practicalities of setting up such a currency.
Sceptics have raised concerns about security and the potential environmental impact from a rollout of a new digital currency, as well as questions about its impact on monetary policy transmission.
Previously, BoE Governor Andrew Bailey has said Bitcoin fails to act as a stable store of value or an efficient way to make transactions, making it ill-suited to serve as a currency and a risky bet for investors.
China is close to becoming the first major economy to launch a digital currency ‘yuan’. Last week the European Central Bank also said it was studying an electronic form of cash to complement banknotes and coins but any launch was still several years away.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
This comes amid a time where interest in digital currency is on the rise. Dutch bank ING said discussions of national digital currencies began with the emergence of bitcoin but were “mostly academic” until Facebook’s decision to launch its own digital currency in 2019. Bitcoin hit a record high of nearly $65,000 on 14th April, up tenfold in the space of a year.
Among the issues are likely to be how the Bank of England would get the new currency into the economy, how business and households would use it and the implications for financial stability.
4. TIKTOK SUED FOR DATA PROTECTION BREACHES
TikTok, the video-sharing social media app, is being sued by former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield for illegally collecting personal data from millions of children. It is alleged that TikTok takes personal information, including phone numbers, location and biometric data, from children without sufficient protection, warning or transparency as to what is being done with that information.
According to Ofcom, 44% of 8-12 year olds in the UK use TikTok, despite its policies forbidding under 13s on the platform.
Due to breaches of data protection law, this could consequently cost TikTok billions in compensation and fines, resulting in all children who have used the app since May 2018 receiving thousands of pounds. Children not wishing to be represented can opt out.
The former children’s commissioner alleges that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” which has “deliberately and successfully deceived parents”.
⭐ 5. CHANEL LOSES TRADEMARK LAWSUIT⭐
Legally Possible’s top news story of the week – in honour of National Intellectual Property day!
Fashion brand Chanel has lost an EU court battle with Chinese technology firm Huawei over its logo. Chanel opposed Huawei’s EU-wide trademark for a logo arguing the two vertical intertwining semi-circles were too similar to its protected logo. However, judges ruled in favour of Huawei and ruled that, although they shared some similarities, their visual differences were “significant”.
The EU Intellectual Property Office dismissed Chanel’s objection 2 years ago, saying there was no similarity and the public were not likely to be confused by the two, emphasizing in particular that the double C was immediately recognizable and associated with Chanel. Chanel then pushed forward and challenged the decision at the General Court, who dismissed the appeal on Wednesday.
The judges said – “In particular, Chanel’s marks have more rounded curves, thicker lines and a horizontal orientation, whereas the orientation of the Huawei mark is vertical. Consequently, the General Court concludes that the marks are different.”
Chanel may now appeal to the European Court of Justice but has not confirmed whether it will do so. Chances are, Chanel very well might try its hand one last time before the EU’s highest court.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
In its report on the case on Tuesday, Reuters stated that the “trademark spat underlines how luxury brands jealously guard their signature logos and trademarks that often symbolize luxury, style and exclusivity to millions of people worldwide.”
Despite Chanel’s defeat, this once again proved the power and fame behind its iconic logo, which continues to remain ultra-recognizable, even outside of the fashion industry.
Infringing intellectual property rights and trademarks has been hot topic over these last few weeks, following a battle between Marks and Spencer and Asda over Asda’s surprisingly similar caterpillar cake, Cuthbert the Caterpillar, to Marks & Spencer’s iconic Colin the Caterpillar. You can read more about this in last weeks news roundup here.
But what do you think? Are the logo’s confusingly similar? Or do you think there is no confusion whatsoever, especially given that Huawei is not a fashion brand? See the two trademarks below, and let me know your thoughts in the comments, or reach out to me on social media! I’d love to hear them.
Image: Chanel’s trademark (left) – Huawei’s trademark (right)
6. BANKS COMMIT TO ACHIEVEING NET-ZERO EMISSIONS
More than 40 of the world’s leading banks, including NatWest, Lloyds, Barclays, and Santander, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner in ‘critical moment’, by joining the new scheme Net-Zero Banking Alliance.
Asked whether the average consumer will be affected by the changes, Mark Carney, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s finance advisor for COP26, said pensions will be impacted “positively” because the move is “reducing future risks”. He added, “We are putting those pensions and that money to work in a way that’s going to improve our economy and improve our society. So that’s a positive effect, to be absolutely clear”. Mr Carney also said this was the “breakthrough in mainstreaming climate finance” that the world needs. The banks who signed up to the scheme control assets totalling £20.45 trillion.
In addition to the main 2050 target, members will set 2030 targets on priority sectors where the banks can have the most significant impact, ensuring they engage with their clients’ decarbonisation efforts.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
This follows recent concerns over many UK banks not having any net-zero targets. As of 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws aiming to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. Now, it is hoped that many more financial institutions will not fall foul of new climate change laws in the coming years.
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