Exxon Corp. v. Exxon Insurance Consultants International Ltd
[[Case citation| Ch. 119]] is a leading decision in English law
on the existence of copyright
in a name alone and the infringement of a trade mark
. The Court found that typically there is no copyright in a name, invented or otherwise, and that a trade mark can only be infringed when there the infringing party shares part of the market segment.
took the position that there is copyright in the word "Exxon" for two reasons. First, because they put considerable time and energy into the development of the name, and second, as there was a significant investment into creating the name it was an "original literary work". Further, they argued that size of a literary work does not matter.
The Court found that the name Exxon, while a trade mark, is only a word and as such is not capable of copyright protection. A word alone does not convey any information beyond its dictionary meaning and thus cannot be a literary work. Furthermore, allowing copyright in single words would overlap trademark law entirely and would make use of the word in public troublesome.
With regards to the trade mark, the Court found that the use of this word by the defendants who work in a field that in no way shares a market
segment with the plaintiff in no way dilutes the plaintiff's brand name nor infringes on its trade mark.