Tragus has lost its challenge to stop restaurateur Steven Novak using the name Poulet Rouge on the grounds that it’s too similar to its Cafe Rouge brand.

Tragus, which was today ordered to pay costs of £1,350 after the judgement by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), had applied to invalidate Novak’s bid to register the Poulet Rouge trademark due to what it called the “likelihood of confusion on the part of the public”, who could link it with Cafe Rouge.

Specifically, Tragus argued that there’s a “likelihood of confusion” as both marks contain the word “rouge”, which the company said was the “more dominant and distinctive element in each mark”.

The use of Poulet Rouge will take “unfair advantage” of Tragus’ “substantial reputation in wines and restaurant services”, and the company’s trademark will be “diluted”, Tragus added.

It said the use of Poulet Rouge “constitutes passing off”.

Novak’s counter argument, given at a hearing via video conference on 2 September, was that Tragus doesn’t have a monopoly on the word “rouge” - he presented extracts from UK restaurant websites that use the term. He claimed the name comes from the dish Poulet Rouge de Fermier chicken.

Giving her judgement, Judi Pike at the IPO said there’s a “low to average degree” of similarity between the Cafe Rouge and Poulet Rouge marks, both visually and aurally

“The concept of the applicant’s mark is ‘red cafe’. The only recognisable concept of Mr Novak’s mark is Rouge because Poulet will be seen as an invented word without meaning,” said Pike.

“This puts a conceptual distance between them. The conceptual similarities between the marks are low to average. Even if I am wrong and the average consumer would understand Poulet to mean chicken, there is little conceptual similarity between a red cafe and a red chicken.”

She dismissed Tragus’ argument that the distinctive characteristic of the mark lies in “Rouge” only, saying that marks “must be considered as wholes”. The word “rouge” is “not so strikingly distinctive that the natural conclusion will be that nobody else would use it”.

Novak and business partner Shaun Gray, who also operate the Cattle Grid concept, opened the chicken-led Poulet Rougue restaurant in Balham in spring 2013. Novak applied for the trademark on 28 November that year, which prompted Tragus’ action.