Online bathroom giants slug it out in High Court

A High Court battle over trademark infringement saw VictoriaPlum win its case against online rival Victorian Plumbing, which has subsequently won a counterclaim and is being advised to sue for damages.

The week-long court hearing, which took place at the High Court in London in October, was attended by Victorian Plumbing managing director Mark Radcliffe and VictoriaPlum founder Jason Walker.

VictoriaPlum argued that Victorian Plumbing had “paid to advertise in search engine results when consumers had searched for the Victoria Plum brand name and related terms”.

It also told the court that Victorian Plumbing was spending “hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum” on ads that have now been found liable for trademark infringement.

“We know our potential customers are over 20 times more likely to know the brand than that of Victorian Plumbing,” said VictoriaPlum chief executive Paul McClenaghan. “The court found that Victorian Plumbing acted unlawfully, infringed our trademarks and was increasing and exacerbating confusion for customers.

“We were left with no option but to take legal action against Victorian Plumbing to protect our customers and we are pleased that our concerns have been vindicated. We will now seek substantial damages from Victorian Plumbing through continued legal action,” added McClenaghan.

However, Victorian Plumbing hit back with a successful counterclaim, which argued that VictoriaPlum had “engaged in the practice of paying to advertise in search engine results when consumers searched for ‘Victorian Plumbing’ and related terms”.

The High Court ruled that VictoriaPlum acted wrongly and that it was open to Victorian Plumbing to seek damages from its rival for losses caused by those acts.

Victorian Plumbing’s Radcliffe said: “We are glad that the initial stage of our dispute with Victoria Plum is over. The court’s decision is being reviewed by our legal team and aspects of the ruling may be appealed. That aside, we now intend to move on to pursue our goals of continuing as one of the highest-rated online bathroom retailers in the country in peace.

“We are on target to be not only the largest online bathroom retailer in the UK, but we soon expect to be able to announce that we have become the leading bathroom retailer of any type in the UK.

“When TPG took over Victoria Plum, we did expect the new American owners to take issue with the existence of a family-owned, UK-based company like ours operating in the same space, but fortunately at that point we had become large enough and successful enough to defend ourselves against this $72 billion investment group.”

He concluded: “Victoria Plum’s latest set of accounts will make interesting reading, I am sure.

“The modern consumer knows what he or she is shopping for, and users are much more web-savvy than some more old-fashioned retailers would have you believe. They want fair prices, they want good service and they want an easy to use website.”

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