Green Is the New Black as Cabbies Lose Out to Uber, Eco-Rivals

  • New Metrocab design will not confuse consumers, judge finds
  • Mayor Johnson drops five-minute rule for Uber pick-ups

London’s iconic black cabs suffered a pair of setbacks Wednesday as Mayor Boris Johnson dropped a rule requiring Uber Technologies Inc. to wait five minutes before picking up passengers and a judge refused to throw a roadblock in the way of a group developing an environmentally friendly taxi.

A London judge found that Frazer-Nash Research Ltd. and Ecotive Ltd.’s zero-emission Metrocab didn’t breach the London Taxi Co.’s trademarks, according to a ruling Wednesday. The judgment came as Johnson shelved plans to impose a five-minute delay on all rides booked through Uber’s mobile app.

The decisions comes at a time of unprecedented upheaval for London’s black cabs as new technologies open the door to a wide array of competitors. Uberis fighting on a number of fronts to expand its range of services in the city.

Johnson backtracked on the five-minute rule, which was part of a package of reforms for the industry. Answering questions at the London Assembly, Johnson said it was not possible or practical, and that proposals to limit ride-hailing services were "trying to turn back the clock on technological progress."

Uber’s U.K. spokeswoman, Jo Bertram, hailed the decision as “good news for Londoners and a victory for common sense."

Johnson played a key role in the run up to today’s eco-ruling at the High Court as well.

The mayor said a year ago that all of the city’s new taxis should be zero-emission by 2018 as part of efforts to reduce pollution. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., the company that owns the London Taxi Co., is investing 250 million pounds ($355 million) in a new facility in Coventry to build greener versions of the black cab.

Peter Johansen, chief executive of the London Taxi Company said he was "understandably disappointed" by the court’s decision.

The court case is The London Taxi Corporation Ltd. v. Frazer Nash Research Ltd. & Anr, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC14B01502

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