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Can you tell between Sky and Skype? No (or nope) say judges

Barry Collins
6 May 2015
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European judges say public struggles to tell difference between Sky and Skype

Microsoft has been prevented from registering Skype as a trademark, because its name is too similar to that of satellite broadcaster Sky. The ruling is the latest skirmish in a long-running battle between Sky and Microsoft over the naming of their products. 

Judges at the General Court of the European Union ruled that Microsoft couldn't register a trademark for the Skype name or its distinctive bubbly logo, because the public will likely confuse it with Sky, according to a report on the BBC. "Conceptually, the figurative element conveys no concept, except perhaps that of a cloud," the judges ruled. 

"[That] would further increase the likelihood of the element 'Sky' being recognised within the word element 'Skype', for clouds are to be found 'in the sky' and thus may readily be associated with the word 'sky'," the judges added, giving Sybil Fawlty a run for her money by stating the bleeding obvious.

Last year, Microsoft changed the name of its online storage service SkyDrive to OneDrive, following a High Court ruling that it had infringed on Sky's trademark. However, this time Microsoft says that it won't be rebranding the VoIP service, which it bought in 2011 for $8.5 billion. "We're confident that no confusion exists between these brands and services and will appeal," a company spokesperson told the BBC. "This decision does not require us to alter product names in any way."

It's not clear whether Sky will attempt to force Microsoft to stop using the Skype name or settle for a licensing fee. In a statement sent to the BBC, Sky said its "intention has been to protect the Sky brand, with our research showing that similarities in name and logo have the potential to confuse customer."

Sky does indeed have its own telephony product, called Sky Talk, which could arguably overlap with Skype. However, Skype has been running for more than a decade and has almost become a generic term for internet telephony. Indeed, Sky News routinely introduces interviewees as appearing "via Skype".

It's not the first time Microsoft has been accused of squatting on someone else's brand, either. The company was forced to stop referring to Windows 8's redesigned Start menu as the "Metro" interface, after German retailer Metro AG objected to the use of the name. 

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