easyGroup 'bullies' tiny Leicestershire company into changing name

The team behind the newly named, Tiger Team Events
-Credit: (Image: Sarah Todd)

A tiny Leicestershire company has decided to change its name, logo and hand over its web address after receiving "frightening" letters from lawyers for easyGroup. EasyTiger Events, as the company was then called, said it feared getting into an “expensive” legal battle with easyGroup after the vast multinational conglomerate sent it a letter setting out potential court action if it did not "cease and desist" from using its own trading name, logo and domain name. It comes after Leicester band Easy Life announced it had changed its name to Hard Life following a similar battle with the giant.

Now known as Tiger Team Events, the company, based in South Kilworth, which has three members of staff, received a letter from lawyers for the global brand in February. In the letter, which has been seen by LeicestershireLive, legal firm Harbottle and Lewis said the word ‘easy’ in the company's name, and the “prominent” use of the colour orange in its branding, “clearly bring to mind the Easy family of brands”. It added that there was a "risk that the relevant public will consider that the company's trading name, [logo] and domain name form part of our client's broader family of brands and registrations”, and alleged that that amounted to a "trademark infringement" and “to actionable passing off”, suggesting Easy Tiger Events was trying to make itself appear to be part of easyGroup.

Sarah Todd, one of the directors of Tiger Team, said she believed the letter amounted to “bullying tactics”. She said she was “really, really angry” when the company received the first of two letters from easyGroup, although had initially "thought it was a joke”.

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"The letter is quite obviously written by very clever lawyers and is bullying tactics, frightening a small company," said Sarah. “It's been quite costly so far, up to £10,000 at the moment. For a small company that is significant. That’s just for solicitors' bills without even going to court.

“They were not caving and said, 'If you do not change it, we are threatening court action.” One of the letters sent to Tiger Team by easyGroup's lawyers stated that the global brand was potentially entitled to “delivery up of all material in your possession, custody or control which infringes our client's rights as aforesaid”, “a permanent injunction to restrain you from supplying services under the infringing sign or any confusingly similar sign(s) or name(s),” as well as costs and damages, if the company did not comply with its requests.

Easy Tiger was set up in 2014 by Sarah and business partner Samantha Davies to help clients find venues to hold meetings, celebrations or conferences. Sarah said the name Easy Tiger Events was chosen because a lot of other names of companies in the field were “corporate sounding”, and they wanted something more “personable”. At that time, said Sarah, they “never would have thought this would happen”.

Sarah said: “It's just the bullying tactics that they are using. They cannot own the word 'easy', an adjective surely." She said that while they "did not think [easyGroup] would win" a court battle, they "just did not want a very expensive court case hanging over us".

She said they were able to “negotiate” a year’s grace period to change over their domain name, so they could continue to receive emails through Easy Tiger. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, easyGroup owner and founder, told LeicestershireLive his company had been “very generous” in doing so.

“The legal action is by easyGroup Ltd, the creator and owner of the easy family of brands," Sir Stelios said. “The fact is that the brand thief [Samantha] Jayne Davies has admitted that using a name like Easy Tiger Events is infringing our rights and has already signed the attached undertakings to change their company name. We have been very generous in offering her this deal and a transition of one year instead of having to pay to us substantial damages for the unauthorised use after an expensive court battle which we were going to win.

“There are several court judgements that confirm that we have very strong rights in the easy family of marks in the UK with the colour orange. We will continue to take legal action to protect the consumer from being confused that brand thieves like [Samantha] Jayne Davies are part of the easy family of brands, like easyJet is, when in fact they are not a duly paid member.”

An earlier version of this story said easyGroup owned easyJet. We have subsequently been told by easyGroup that "easyGroup is not the owner of easyJet. easyJet is a FTSE100 Company, easyGroup licences the easy brand to easyJet but is not the owner". The story has been edited accordingly.

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