Posted on Monday 11 December 2017 by Cruickshank Intellectual Property

The naming of the planned national children’s hospital has garnered much criticism since it was revealed back in October 2017. This new €1billion hospital, ‘Phoenix Children’s Health’ will be located at St. James Hospital Campus and is expected to be in operation by 2022. However, following the announcement of the name by Minister for Health Simon Harris, much media attention has followed with the medical board of the other three Irish children’s hospitals expressing their concern regarding the likelihood of confusion with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital based in Arizona, US.

Following this, it has now been revealed that the US based hospital has been in communication with Mr. Harris, declaring their intention to initiate legal proceedings if the Minister continues to go ahead using the similar name. Vice President of the Arizona Hospital David Higginson in his letter, stated that the same name ‘would have an effect on their reputation and adding confusion to the public and consumers.’

While the Arizona Children’s Hospital has been vocal in their concerns, a spokesperson for the Dublin Hospital has also maintained that the US have acknowledged that the planned hospital is in a ‘different jurisdiction and registered in different trademark region.’ The question may then arise on what grounds can legal proceedings be filed if both names are registered in separate jurisdictions? Could the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in the US attempt to oppose on grounds of their reputation alone? While there are certain laws in place to protect companies and their brand/logo, a likelihood of confusion must be proved and in this case, it is unclear how much confusion could be caused by these two hospitals situated in different countries.

An online search on the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) shows that three-word marks were registered in September of this year, ‘Phoenix Children’s Health’, ‘Phoenix Children’s’ and ‘Phoenix’. All three have now entered the opposition proceedings (beginning on the 06.12.2017) stage and according to the EUIPO database legal proceedings have yet to occur, however the deadline for such action is not until the end of January. Interestingly the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona recently applied in the US for a new word mark in October of this year titled ‘Phoenix Children’s Hospital.’ Again, a search on the EUIPO showed 336 records for the word ‘Phoenix’ alone, signifying the popularity of the term.

While it still remains unclear what action will be taken, more recent media reports over the weekend have stated that Minister Harris has suggested that following this issue it is ‘unlikely’ they will go ahead using the planned ‘Phoenix’ name but no formal announcement has been made yet.