NEWS: Knocking ads get the green light

A High Court judge has given the all clear for comparative advertising in Britain to continue as long as it is not deliberately unfair.

A High Court judge has given the all clear for comparative advertising

in Britain to continue as long as it is not deliberately unfair.

The ruling is likely to be welcomed by agencies that have been

responsible for the surge in comparative ads since the 1994 Trade Marks

Act eased the restrictions.

Until now comparative advertising has been hampered by the vague wording

of the 1994 act, which said it was acceptable as long as it conformed

with ‘honest practices in industrial and commercial matters’.

Now Mr Justice Laddie has clarified the law by throwing out an

injunction application by Barclays against RBS Advanta - a joint venture

between the Royal Bank of Scotland and Advanta Corporation - over

comparisons with Barclaycard in a direct marketing promotion for a new

Visa credit card.

The judge ruled that the ads fully conformed to the wording of the act

and that there had been no infringement of the Barclaycard trademark.

Although some members of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers

are opposed to comparative advertising because of the potential damage

it could cause to well-established brands, the court ruling has been

welcomed by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

Philip Circus, the IPA’s legal affairs director, said: ‘We’ve always

said that freedom of creative techniques is at the forefront of the

fight for freedom of commercial speech. The trouble was that although

the Government introduced the 1994 act to allow comparative advertising,

its woolly wording meant we didn’t know what was allowed and what

wasn’t. Now we do.’

The mailing sent out to promote the card listed 15 benefits to potential

users and compared it with other cards, including Barclaycard. The

bank’s action was the first of its kind since the act relaxed


The court ruling means that advertisers can continue to use competitors’

trade marks for identification purposes without falling foul of the law.

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