London - A British chain of comedy clubs has taken Hollywood giant Twentieth Century Fox to court over the name of its hit television series Glee.
Comic Enterprises, which runs four music and stand-up comedy venues called Glee Club, has made a claim against the US film and TV company for trademark infringement.
The British firm's owner Mark Tughan said many customers assume there is a link between his company and the US series, and that the confusion is damaging his 16-year-old business.
The TV comedy, about a high school singing club, has been wildly popular since its first series in 2009, but Tughan did not start legal proceedings until September in the hope its success would die down.
"When he first saw the television programme he had already witnessed how shows such as Disney's High School Musical had started off and flopped," judge Colin Birss said at the Patents County Court in London on Thursday.
"His initial feeling was that this could be possible with Glee," added Birss, ruling that the case could be transferred to the High Court.
"However, the television programme has clearly not flopped. It is very successful."
Taken off the air
Now in its third season, the Golden Globe-winning series has spawned 11 soundtrack albums, and hundreds of the cast's cover versions of pop and show tunes are available for digital download.
With more than 32 million downloads in the US, the cast last month entered the list of top ten digital US artists of all time, according to the Nielsen SoundScan sales tracker.
Birss said Tughan had stressed he was not bringing the claim against Twentieth Century Fox "on the basis of how much money the claimant could potentially receive from Fox as a result of the success of Glee".
The judge said that if Comic Enterprises's claim was successful, "the television programme at least in its current form would have to be taken off the air".
As well as contesting the case, the judge said Fox has launched a counterclaim challenging Comic Enterprises' right to the registered trademark.
Fox points out "that the Oxford English Dictionary defines a glee club as a society for singing part-songs", said Birss.