National Family Mediation (“NFM”) provides family mediation services to help people resolve the emotional, practical, financial and legal issues that affect them when their marriage or partnership ends. It also provides extensive advice to help people navigate the family justice system, with a particular focus on supporting children through the process. The majority of its work involves families on low incomes who may be marginally above the legal aid eligibility levels.
NFM applied to LawWorks for help in obtaining a trademark for its name, which it has used since 1999. The charity was concerned that an individual, who had set themselves up as a mediation provider, was using NFM’s name and passing themselves off as NFM. Numerous complaints had been received about this service from individuals who thought they had been dealing with NFM. Staff had tried contacting the individual to ask them to stop, but without success.
NFM had previously received some pro bono advice through one of its trustees, and had already obtained a trademark for its logo. However, its trademark application for its name was refused and the pro bono support could not continue. The charity was unable to pay for further legal advice.
LawWorks connected NFM with Laura Elliott at Cooley (UK) LLP. For Laura, this gave her an opportunity to work with a different type of client and, as a junior lawyer, gain more case management experience.
NFM’s previous application to trademark its name was refused because it was deemed descriptive. To achieve trademark status, Laura and NFM therefore had to show the name had ‘acquired distinctiveness’, which required putting forward considerable evidence of the use of the name. Laura worked closely with NFM’s CEO, Jane Robey, who gathered the relevant information for Laura to then draft a strong submission to the Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”). Laura highlighted how time-consuming this process is for clients, but that they ‘got there as a team’. After a long wait the IPO agreed the name had ‘acquired distinctiveness’ and the trademark was granted.
The trademark status means NFM can now enforce this against third parties using it. Jane described the result as ‘fantastic’ and said it has ‘helped [NFM] enormously’. It is already using its new trademark status to act in relation to the individual that caused problems initially.
Commenting on her experience of the case, Laura said she particularly enjoyed working with a client so invested in the outcome. She found it satisfying that there was a concrete purpose to the work and that she felt like she was making a difference. She would ‘absolutely’ recommend taking on a pro bono matter to colleagues.
Jane said ‘Laura was brilliant, and I could never have obtained the trademark without her. Without the help from LawWorks, NFM would not have been able to do anything to protect its name, as we could not have afforded to pay for a lawyer. The advice and support received went beyond my expectations and I would very much recommend LawWorks to other organisations.’