So there’s this dinner theatre show called The Faulty Towers Dining Experience. It’s been running for years. But apparently John Cleese has only just heard about it and he’s not too pleased. The similarity with his own Fawlty Towers is obvious and TFTDE is clearly ‘dining out’ (yes) on the popularity of Cleese’s show.
But could he take TFTDE to court over it? The answer is, at best, maybe. Probably not.
We can rule out a trade mark infringement claim. Cleese’s first problem is that Fawlty Towers is not a registered trade mark in Australia. He’s not even the trade mark owner back in England; it belongs to the BBC.
Another option is an action for passing off or a claim under the ACL for misleading or deceptive conduct. He might have better prospects there. People are pretty likely to be confused about whether TFTDE is associated with, or endorsed by, the real Fawlty Towers or Cleese himself as the co-creator and star of the show. Changing Fawlty to Faulty isn’t enough to avoid confusion. But then, TFTDE has been operating for years, so Cleese would likely be out of time to make a claim.
Interestingly, TFTDE has actually taken an aggressive stance to protecting its own IP. It has registered the TFTDE trade mark in Australia and the TFTDE website warns people not to rip off the show. The result is that when Cleese brings his Fawlty Towers Live show to Australia later this year, TFTDE could potentially throw a trade mark infringement claim right back at him. Oh the irony.
Reminds us of something...
Basil: It’s a rat.
Manuel: No, no, is hamster.
Basil: Of course it’s a rat. You have rats in Spain, don’t you? Or did Franco have them all shot?