Rival British publishers Associated Newspapers and Express Newspapers have begun a court battle over the latter’s attempts to enter the London newspaper market.

Associated owns the capital’s only two London-specific daily papers: morning freesheet Metro and the paid-for Evening Standard. However, arch-rival Express is planning to muscle in with an evening freesheet, reportedly titled the Evening Mail (though that name has yet be confirmed).

The rumoured masthead is not a million miles from Associated’s flagship national title the Daily Mail and its parent has gone to court to seek an injunction that would prevent Express from using this name.

Associated argues the title Evening Mail would infringe its trademarks and cause confusion among the public and advertisers, potentially hitting ad revenue.

Its claim to hold rights over the term ‘Mail’ might come as a shock to longstanding regional papers such as the Birmingham Evening Mail or Scotland’s Sunday Mail (and several dozen others). Lawyers for the Express told the high court that the existence of these titles showed Associated’s arguments were unfounded.

“But,” retorted Associated lawyer Simon Thorley QC, “this case is not about confusion between two long-standing newspapers, one national and the other provincial. It is about a publishing group and an unknown product designed to compete with two quasi-national newspapers, the Metro and the Evening Standard.”

[Precisely what makes a paper sold across Scotland “provincial” and a paper sold only in London “quasi-national” does not seem to have been made clear. Nor did Thorley reveal that the name ‘Metro’ was appropriated by Associated from a Scandinavian firm operating similar freesheets around the world.]

Whatever the outcome of such logic-chopping, Associated faces a bigger threat to its dominance of the London market in Desmond’s claim that its exclusive distribution deals with transport authorities are anti-competitive – a claim now being investigated by regulators [WAMN: 09-May-03].

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff