Microsoft lost a trademark battle against British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) at the UK’s high court in England and Wales for infringing the ‘Sky’ trademark. There will be another hearing in the presence of the presiding judge Justice Sarah Asplin for hearing the arguments for an appeal by Microsoft. Microsoft may have to pay fines or may be forced to change the name of its cloud storage service throughout Europe or maybe both.
BSkyB is one of the largest pay-TV broadcasters in the European Union and is partly owned by News Corporation. It also provided its own cloud storage service between 2008 and 2011 called Sky Store and Share. Microsoft lost the case for infringement of two registered Community trade marks (CTMs) and two UK registered trade marks (UKTMs) for the mark ‘SKY’. Microsoft puts in a counterclaim “on the grounds of descriptiveness for cloud storage services” i.e. it is not easy to confuse between their cloud based services and BSkyB’s pay TV services.
According to a report:
Mrs Justice Asplin concluded today that the scope of BSkyB’s “SKY” registered trademarks, as well as its goodwill in the SKY brand, was such that Microsoft’s use of the “SkyDrive” mark was likely to cause confusion among consumers. She also decided that use by Microsoft of the “SkyDrive” brand was detrimental to the SKY mark which, in itself, amounted to trademark infringement.
Cloud storage remains a popular product with consumers and enterprises alike, with more than 250 million users worldwide. Microsoft offers up to 7 GB of free SkyDrive storage to its Windows Phone and Outlook.com users. It also offers a premium paid-storage service for premium users of SkyDrive, thus making Microsoft software as well as a service based company.
A Microsoft spokesperson added that the case is limited to SkyDrive name and has nothing do to with service availability or future innovation. In 2010, BSkyB also filed a case against Skype (around the time Microsoft announced it would buy it), but it didn’t go anywhere. In a way, justice has been served for BSkyB now. It is more likely that Microsoft might change its cloud storage name as it has decided against paying any fines in the past when it opted to change the name of its “Metro” UI because of a lawsuit by retail group Metro AG.
It appears that Microsoft has been preparing itself to face the eventuality that it may be required to change its name. A post at the betaarchive forum mentions that Microsoft may have hard-coded the term Microsoft Drive already into Windows 8.1.
Well, let us see how events unfold…