As the UK referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union draws closer, it has been reported that Nissan have issued legal proceedings seeking an injunction preventing the use of its logo, which appeared on a leaflet distributed by the Vote Leave campaign. That leaflet informed voters that major employers, including Nissan, had stated that they would stay in the UK regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
The question is what type of action is available to Nissan in this instance? The use of Nissan's logo on the leaflet may not be considered use in the course of trade and this will affect Nissan's ability to sue for infringement of its trade marks.
Instead, Nissan may well bring a case for passing off, claiming that the leaflets falsely indicate the Nissan is endorsing the Leave campaign. The key argument will be whether the leaflet is only conveying an aspect of Nissan's stated position on the consequences of a decision to leave or whether the wording and design goes further and suggests Nissan's endorsement of the Leave campaign.
In any event, the court is unlikely to consider the matter in full before this Thursday's referendum, but Nissan's hope will be that the public announcement of this action will be sufficient to prevent further use of their logo.
As Nissan is supportive of the Remain campaign, the public statement also places increased pressure on the Leave campaign that has already been accused of using some questionable facts in its campaign.
Nissan is to take Vote Leave to court claiming the official Brexit campaign has misused its logo in a leaflet urging voters to support the Out camp on 23 June. The carmaker, which employs 6,800 people at its sprawling Sunderland plant, said it was going to the High Court in a bid to stop Leave campaigners using its name and logo and to "prevent them making any further false statements and misrepresentations concerning Nissan."