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May 30, 2018

MAY'S NEWSLETTER

Corporate News

Greenaway Scott advise leading UK-based cloud technology company Difference Corporation on its 60% share disposal to Firstcom Europe.

First Comm Logo

Firstcom Europe, the pan European provider of cloud telecoms and technologies services has extended its reach in the UK and increased its Contact Centre capability with a majority stake in Difference Corporation. This acquisition will increase Firstcom's UK revenues to more than €5.6m (£4.94m), from €1.7m (£1.5m) in 2013.

 

Trevor Geraghty, business development director at Difference Corporation, said: "The team at Difference are delighted to be part of Firstcom, an international group of technology companies.

 

"The reach, scale and experience this brings is excellent news for our people, customers and partners. The founding management team are 100 per cent committed to the project and continuing the ‘service first’ culture which has made Difference the success it is today."

 

Adam Crisp, Firstcom Europe’s chief technology officer, said: "The acquisition of Difference gives our sales partners access to a new set of communications services backed by a specialist team. The expertise of the Difference team will complement Firstcom’s skills set as we develop our next generation communications systems."

 

Firstcom Europe is currently expanding across the continent, having recently acquired companies in UK, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Germany.

 

Jean-Pierre Vandromme, Firstcom Europe’s chief executive said: "Difference is the seventh acquisition for the Firstcom Europe Group in four years and will increase our European revenue from €1.7 million in 2013 to €28m this year. We expect to close another three acquisitions in 2018 which would bring our expected revenue to over €50m.

 

"Our goal is to become the prime Pan-European cloud provider with presence across most of Europe and a revenue of over €100m by 2020. This is a significant milestone on our journey."

 

Greenaway Scott and UHY advised Difference Corp and AL Goodbody (Dublin) advised Firstcom Europe.

 

Commercial News

The importance of trademarking and the battle of the red-soled shoes

Red Shoes

We all recognise how important branding can be for any business when marketing their products or services and this can be particularly important for start-up businesses trying to distinguish themselves in the market. We would always advise making a thorough check of the market early on to make sure your branding doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, and then we suggest registering any applicable trademarks in the jurisdiction in which your business will operate and will therefore require protection.

 

This is not only important for start-up businesses but also for established businesses as it is important to protect your branding and registering a trademark is one way to do this. Whilst you can register a figurative trademark for any logo that you may be using in your business and this can include colours as part of the image, a number of high profile companies have attempted to specifically protect the colour alone. The rules on this vary in each jurisdiction, however in the EU it is possible to register a trademark which consists solely of a colour provided that an enhanced level of distinctiveness can be shown.

 

For certain products, colour may be a vital part of the branding and no more so than for the Louboutin brand which is famous for their red-soled shoes. Louboutin currently has an EU trademark which includes their famous red colour, however, the trademark combines both colour and shape in that it protects the colour applied to the sole of a shoe. A Dutch high street chain has been locked in a legal dispute with Louboutin since 2012, when the chain started selling black and blue shoes also with a red sole. Louboutin claimed that the shoes infringed on their brand’s trademark.

 

The case has now made its way to the European Court of Justice and Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general for the court has stated that the red soles are not a separate entity from the shape of the high-heeled shoes. Shapes cannot typically be trademarked under EU law and therefore this could lead the way for the trademark is declared invalid.

 

The importance of this case is that if Louboutin lose their trademark, it could open the door to other fashion brands selling shoes with a red sole. This could obviously seriously affect the value of the Louboutin brand. This has long been an issue in the fashion industry, and trademarks have been extremely important particularly to protect from counterfeiting.

 

However, the protection of colours as a trademark has also been important in other industries with Cadburys holding a trademark for their famous purple colour. Therefore it is important that you get your branding clear at the outset and any names, logos, signs, representations, or colours that have importance to your branding registered as appropriate.

 

If you would like advice on registering your trademarks please contact the Commercial team by emailing commercial@greenawayscott.com or visit our website at www.greenawayscott.com.

 

Employment News

The FIFA World Cup 2018 – an employer’s approach


Thursday 14th June will mark the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2018. With the world’s eyes firmly focused on the tournament hosts Russia, the stage is set for 32 days of non-stop entertainment where the game’s best players will battle it out to be crowned football’s number one country.

 

Sporting events policy

As matches will be taking place throughout the day, employers may wish to consider putting plans in place to ensure minimal disruption to working practices. Employers should be clear as to their stance on employees following the games during the World Cup and ensure that their approach is communicated to employees in advance.

 

By putting a formal policy in place, employers can clearly set out the applicable rules in relation to any flexible working arrangements and incorporate procedures to ensure that the taking of time off during the tournament is fair and transparent.

 

Employers may feel that an informal approach is more suited to the situation. If this approach is taken, employers should be mindful of the potential for employee productivity to dip during this period coupled with an inevitable interruption to efficient working practices.

 

Disciplinary issues

Unfortunately, the emotions evoked by a World Cup can sometimes cause employees to misbehave which may result in an employer taking disciplinary action. Employers should, therefore, take steps to monitor employee behaviour during working hours and ensure that there is a disciplinary policy in place to deter the following behaviours:

1. Intoxication at work;

2. Unauthorised absence;

3. Disproportionate internet use; and

4. Racist or inflammatory behaviour.

 

Sanctions must be proportionate to the alleged misconduct and first offenders should be issued with a warning if disciplinary action is necessary, before more serious sanctions are introduced. If the misconduct is particularly serious it may amount to gross misconduct and employees can generally be dismissed without having received prior warnings. However, a fair and proper process still needs to be followed.

 

Working time arrangements

It’s important that employers give fair and consistent treatment to all employees, whether they enjoy football or not, and therefore special arrangements could be put in place for matches that take place during office hours and where employers are happy to let employees follow the game.

 

Employers could offer interested employees flexible start and finish times to the working day which would mean that employees would be permitted to leave early provided they make up the time, i.e. by coming in early the next day.

While flexible working hours generally enable productivity to be maintained, it may not be practical to allow an employee to leave early if this would result in insufficient cover or lack of expertise within the workplace.

 

Extended lunch-breaks, shift-swaps and flexible annual leave entitlement are further options for employers who want to ensure that a balance is maintained between productivity and employee satisfaction during the tournament.

 

Facilities

Providing facilities to employees in order to enable them to watch the games during office hours is likely to boost morale and satisfaction among the workforce. For example, employers could consider putting in place facilities for matches to be shown in communal areas, allowing employees to watch or listen to the broadcast on work devices or permit streaming to mobile devices.

 

In adopting these measures, employers can reduce the risk of employees attempting to circumvent the rules by calling in sick on the day of a match or watching the matches on their own devices without permission.

 

Discrimination

While World Cups are usually joyous affairs with friendly rivalries between supporters of different nations, employers should also be aware of the potential for discrimination to arise.

Employers should always treat employees fairly and equally, making it clear that a zero-tolerance policy will be taken in regard to any form of discrimination.

 

There is no legal obligation for employers to make adjustments to working arrangements to allow employees to watch major sporting events. However, in terms of employee morale in the workplace or during working hours, sporting events like the FIFA World Cup are an opportunity for employers to bring together their employees and have a positive effect on the atmosphere within the workplace. Despite being non-mandatory, small changes such as the points mentioned above, as well as putting up competing nations flags and relaxing dress codes for employees during the tournament, can go a long way to ensuring that employee wellbeing and togetherness is promoted by giving staff the freedom to enjoy the highs and lows of ‘the beautiful game’ whilst working effectively for their employers at the same time.

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