November 2017. The London Taxi Corporation (TLC) has lost its appeal to gain trademark protection for the exterior of its world-famous black cabs after the UK Court of Appeal ruled that its registrations of the shape mark were invalid.

Photo: The Metrocab can continue to drive on London’s streets


In 2015 TLC took two rival firms to court for touting for business in London with the Metrocab, which strongly resembles TLC’s iconic black cabs. TLC’s opposition rested on two registered shape marks.

Lacks distinctive character

However, on 1 November 2017 the Court of Appeal concluded that the registrations of the shape marks of TLC lacked distinctive character. According to the Court, the shape of the taxi did not significantly differ from the basic standard design for a car.

No acquired distinctiveness

TLC’s argument that the shape of the taxi had acquired distinctiveness through use was also thrown out. Clearly, the taxi is universally known and has an iconic value, but the Court ruled that this could not be monopolised by TLC. The documentary evidence submitted was not adequate to establish that the public would perceive the shape of the taxi as denoting vehicles associated with LTC and no other manufacturer.

EU trademark registration no. 951871: deemed invalid, UK trademark registration no. 2440659: deemed invalid