Fox’s ‘Glee’ Turns Glum in U.K. as Judge Orders Name Change

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) must change the name of its television series “Glee” in the U.K. because it infringes the intellectual property of British comedy clubs with a similar name, a judge ruled today.

Judge Roger Wyand in London granted an injunction to Comic Enterprises Ltd., which said the name of the program caused confusion. He stayed the ruling to allow New York-based Fox to pursue an appeal.

“Glee,” which has won six Emmy awards during its five years on the air, details the lives of members of a high school music club in Ohio. Lawyers for Fox argued that changing the program’s name would lead to “catastrophic consequences” for the company.

“I find it hard to believe that the cost of the re-titling and publicizing of the new name would be so prohibitive compared to the value of the series,” Judge Roger Wyand said in the written ruling today. “I was told many times during the course of the trial how this series is a ‘blockbuster.’”

Fox said in a statement that it was “pleased” the judge allowed it to appeal before ordering any relief.

“We look forward to the next stage of this case and remain confident in the merits of our argument,” the company said.

Comic Enterprises, which operates the “Glee Club” comedy venues in Cardiff, Oxford and Nottingham, initially filed the lawsuit in 2011. The same judge ruled in February that the show infringed the copyrights of the comedy club.

Surprise

“This will certainly come as a surprise to Twentieth Century Fox as the goodwill they have built up in the mark is substantial,” said William Miles, a lawyer at Briffa, an intellectual property law firm that isn’t involved in the suit. “If Comic Enterprises can hang on through the appeal process and match the spending of Fox, then I see no reason why they won’t secure the same outcome at the Court of Appeal level.”

The judge ordered Fox to make an interim payment of 100,000 pounds ($170,000) to Comic Enterprises, saying it was an “extremely conservative figure” for the amount that the comedy club could win if Fox fails in its appeals.

The case is Comic Enterprises Limited v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Case No. HC11C03020, High Court of Justice Chancery Division.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net; Jessica Morris in London at jmorris124@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Mark Beech

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