What is WAGATHA CHRISTIE?
For those not immersed in the world of celebrity gossip, the WAGATHA CHRISTIE phenomenon arose in 2019, when Colleen Rooney accused fellow football WAG, Rebekah Vardy, of leaking stories about her to the press, and the subsequent defamation trial in summer 2022. The phrase WAGATHA CHRISTIE (a pun on Colleen's in-depth sleuthing by which she adduced that Rebekah was the culprit for leaking press stories) was actually coined by 39-year-old Dan Atkinson from Kent in 2019, in a tweet which then went viral. WAGATHA CHRISTIE went on to become the title of a BBC sounds podcast, it was emblazoned on T-shirts which stylist Ozzie Shah claimed he made £50,000 from, well-known brands such as Skinny Dip used the slogan on their phone case products, and, in more recent times, WAGATHA CHRISTIE has since become the name of a stage play currently on at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. Needless to say, it is now appears to be a distinctive phrase capable of indicating origin…
Trade mark registration
Despite losing the defamation trial, it seems that Rebekah Vardy could have the last laugh, as she now has a trade mark registration capable of stopping others using WAGATHA CHRISTIE for a vast array of goods and services, including "publishing of scripts for theatrical use", "production of television programs", and merchandise including the more predictable "alcoholic cocktails", "cosmetics", "sunglasses", "fashion jewellery" and "fashion handbags" to the niche "household shears", "electric mug warmers" and "Felt mats for Chinese calligraphy (stationery)". The application was filed in August 2022, in the name of "London Entertainment Inc Ltd", which is a company reportedly owned by a friend of Vardy's. The application originally included household linen, and these goods appear to have been opposed by Welspun UK Limited, who own the Christy towel brand. Other than for the household linen goods, the trade mark WAGATHA CHRISTIE registered on 14 April 2023.
Although highly entertaining, this registration does raise a number of legal issues and questions in relation to bad faith.
Under section 3(6) of the Trade Marks Act 1994, a trade mark shall not be registered if the application is made in bad faith. Although there is no statutory definition of "bad faith", Court rulings have established that it includes, if, at the time of the application there existed a dishonest intention of undermining the interests of third parties or an intention to obtain exclusive rights for purposes falling outside the functions of the trade mark. It could be that this application comes under "trade mark squatting", in that Vardy has applied for registered protection of a pre-existing brand in order to weaponise it against competitors (watch out Colleen!).
Additionally, an application for registration of a trade mark must state that the trade mark is being used by the applicant (or with their consent) in relation to the goods or services for which registration is sought, or that the applicant has a bona fide intention that it will be used in this way (section 32(3), Trade Marks Act 1994. On the face of it, it seems unlikely that Rebekah Vardy or London Entertainment Inc have an intention to sell WAGATHA CHRISTIE household shears, electric mug warmers, or felt mats for Chinese calligraphy.
Additionally, this registration could face an invalidation challenge under Section 5(4) Trade Marks Act 1994, from the holders of earlier unregistered rights in the phrase WAGATHA CHRISTIE. Should any of the parties who have already used WAGATHA CHRISTIE for "publishing of scripts for theatrical use" or "fashion handbags" prove that they have sufficient reputation in the phrase and that potential customers associate WAGATHA CHRISTIE with them for those particular products, they could apply to invalidate the registration.
It appears that the registration hasn't scared off those already cashing in on the WAGATHA CHRISTIE goodwill, however, as the producer of the "Wagatha Christie" West End show has reportedly said that she sees "no reason why I can't go on without changing the name of the show", but will in fact add reference to the trade mark registration in the script.
Vardy, on the other hand, does appear to have learnt lessons from the scandal, in that she has tried to keep some anonymity in her back-stage manoeuvring this time round by having a friend's company file the trade mark. It remains to be seen if she will maintain a low profile when wielding her now registered trade mark…
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