Public capable of telling the difference between “a soft, sweet food” and “a muddy area of land” in name dispute, rules IPO

Marsh has lost a trademark dispute with insurtech company Marshmallow over its name.

The global broker will have to pay Twin Thinking (Marshmallow) £800 in costs.

The broking giant launched a trademark infringement claim in 2016 after Marshmallow founders Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham had chosen the name.

At the time, the twins said they had consulted lawyers before selecting the name.

However, Marsh wanted to stop them using it all together.

This led the Kent-Brahams to accuse it of attempting to stifle innovation.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) stepped in to oversee the matter in January.

Marsh argued that Marshmallow’s name only differed from its name ‘by the word “Mallow”, which could easily be confused by members of the public’, the IPO ruling shows.

However, the IPO ruled in Marshmallow’s favour, arguing that the public are able to tell the difference between “a soft, sweet food” and “a muddy area of land”.

The ruling reads: “I have absolutely no hesitation concluding that the very different conceptual messages conveyed by the words MARSH and MARSHMALLOW (meanings will which fix themselves in the mind of the average consumer and act as a hook to aid their recall), are more than sufficient to offset the moderate degree of visual and aural similarity between these words.

“As the applicant succeeds on this basis, its position is even stronger if one compares its trademark with the actual trademarks upon which the opponent relies.”

The start-up’s founders welcomed the victory.

“It was the principle,” said Oliver Kent-Braham. “There is a huge amount of insurtech innovation in the UK at the moment. We believe that this is a good thing for consumers and should be supported not stifled by large incumbents like Marsh.

“Unfortunately, in this instance, a huge global company tried to use their wealth and resources to squash Marshmallow before we’d even started. Fortunately, the IPO office saw sense and ruled in our favour, we are, naturally delighted by the outcome, it’s a sweet victory.”

Motor insurance start-up Marshmallow is aiming to launch in the next few months and has gained FCA approval.

It will seek to target foreign-born drivers, who can pay 50% more in premiums than the average UK driver.

Marsh declined to comment.