Svenska Spel case rejected

A treatment centre for gambling addicts in southern Sweden has beaten state gambling monopoly Svenska Spel in a brand dispute, reports the English language newspaper this week.

The giant state gambling monopoly, well known for its litigous moves on those whom it considers competitive, took legal issue with the gambling treatment centre Spelkliniken Axept AB, which has been using the name Hemska Spel (‘Horrible Game’) for the past two years at a branch in Röstånga.

Svenska Spel filed a complaint with the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) on discovering the branch, claiming that Hemska Spel could damage the Svenska Spel brand.

However, the PRV has rejected the complaint, concluding that there was and is no significant risk that the state gambling monopoly and the gambling addict treatment facility would be confused with one another.

While PRV admits there are “certain phonetic and visual similarities”, between the two names, the agency ruled that Svenska Spel’s brand is connected to gaming, while the Hemska Spel brand is associated with medical and health services, thus reducing the chances of a mix up.

The Svenska Spel action evokes memories of its clash last year with rival Ladbrokes, a UK gambling group intent on entering Svenska Spel's perceived home territory with competitive products. Ladbrokes indulged in a little lighthearted and witty advertising in the region, using a play on words mocking the Svenska Spel slogan and corrupting it to read "Svenska Spel med Engelska Odds" (translated into English: "Swedish Games with English Odds”)

The Swedish monopoly did not see the humour in the jibe, and instituted legal action (see previous InfoPowa reports).

The CEOs from both companies – Lasse Dilschmann for Ladbrokes Scandinavia and Anders Hägg as Svenska Spel's interim CEO at the time went at it hammer and tongs in a number of public exchanges outside of the courts reported by the media.

Dilschmann claimed: "Svenska Spel's profits are maximized to provide revenues for the state, in effect applying a morals tax on a fully legitimate service – games. Demonstrating this fact is to the benefit of Swedish players and highlights the importance of a regulated and competitive gaming market where competitive pricing benefits consumers and thereby society.

Svenska Spel Information Director, Andreas Jansson responded by saying: "Ladbrokes methods are both doubtful and strange, and remind me of what you would expect from a basement company rather than the 120 year old serious gaming company which they profess to be."

The confrontational relationship between Svenska Spel and Ladbrokes looks set to continue.

In a recent statement reported by InfoPowa, Ladbrokes announced plans to start a TV radio and print campaign to inform the Swedish public that they are an alternative to Swedish state operated Svenska Spel. The benefits of a competitive market to the consumer are highlighted in the advertising.

Ladbrokes revealed it will feature actor Ed Stoppard who appeared in the film 'The Pianist'. The campaign which will run until May 2009, in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. The focus for the new 2009 campaign is to showcase the more competitive odds offered by the UK gambling group.

Ed Andrewes, Managing Director of Ladbrokes eGaming Division commented: "The Nordic region is an important one for Ladbrokes and we believe this strong, hard hitting creative communicates the benefits of betting with Ladbrokes as opposed to the state monopoly and other betting operators."

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