A paid postcode lottery service called People’s Postcode Lottery are suing us for trademark infringement and “passing off”. We’ve pointed out that we are doing neither of those things, but despite our innocence and best efforts to try and resolve this with them, we are going to change our name, from FreePostcodeLottery.com, Free Postcode Lottery (and FPL), to something else.
PPL aren’t just suing Free Postcode Lottery Ltd, they are suing me personally too. On June 19th a court summons was delivered to my wife, at my home, while she was holding our six week old baby. For the sake of transparency, we’ll publish the summons in full, as soon as we’re legally able to. Until then, all I can share is that PPL have one year to “call the action” to start the legal battle and we don’t know whether they’re bluffing or whether they will call it even after we change our name.
Why are we rolling over? They were here first. Well, as least with the literal application of the “postcode lottery” concept, despite the term having been in use in the political media for longer. They also have a lot of money and, because of their legal obligations, are required to give a lot of money to charity. This gives them a lot of leverage.
According to Wikipedia, the founder and CEO of their parent company Novamedia, Boudewijn Poelmann, created his postcode lottery in The Netherlands in 1989. In 2005 they launched a pilot of People’s Postcode Lottery in the North of England, before moving into Scotland in 2007 and Wales in 2010.
I had the idea for a postcode lottery in September 2007 when I heard the term on a Radio 4 report about the NHS. I was also inspired by milliondollarhomepage.com, and how advertising on the internet makes things free. I’ve never been a fan of lotteries, and gambling in general, because the consumers always lose out, so worked on the concept of a daily, ad-funded lottery that scaled the prizes along with the audience. Distracted by a very enjoyable career in web development, I didn’t get around to building it until early 2011. I set out with the lofty goal of building FPL to be unlike anything that had come before it, a lottery without losers, a real chance to win money for free.
This story has been told countless times on the radio, TV, podcasts, newspapers, and blogs, because it is the truth. It seems that PPL either haven’t heard it, or don’t believe it. In any case, they clearly think that it is in their company’s interests to have us gone, or at least renamed beyond recognition. I doubt they have considered how many new customers have found them through searching for us, or that they could learn something from how we do things.
We only ever refer to ourselves as “Free Postcode Lottery”, “FreePostcodeLottery.com”, or, after people join us on the site, “FPL”. We are proud to be free, and being free is what stands us out from the crowd. It’s what makes us innovative. We’re free, they are not. The first thing you see on our homepage is “We give away £800+ per day FOR FREE”. Why would that convince anyone that this is where they sign up for £10 per month direct debits, in the hope of receiving a giant cheque for tens of thousands of pounds? Put simply, it wouldn’t.
Our last letter made an offer to change our name to PickMyPostcode.com, but as you can probably tell from this post, this was not accepted by PPL. To my mind, this shows that they are not concerned about the alleged confusion between the two brands at all. They are attempting to bully me into handing over the concept and business that I’ve created and dedicated the last 7 years to building. If their real motivation is to turn FPL into a recruitment engine for their gambling service, then we have a duty to protect our members from such allegedly predatory behaviour.
All of this has angered and distressed me, the team, and my family, so much so that my gut is telling me to fight. The problem is, that there is no guarantee that we would win, and frankly, we would rather any big payouts go to our members and not lawyers. We have spent nearly a year, and a great deal of legal fees, failing to come to a sensible arrangement and agonising over what to do. We know that name changes are nearly always hated, and getting it wrong could damage us far more than PPL think they can. Still, we’re going to try, and we really hope you get behind us. As is the way with FPL (or whatever we’re called) we want to include you in the discussion and decision. We’ve got some very smart people helping us, and whatever emerges on the other side will have the best chance of winning your approval.
I’ll be back soon with some ideas for new names. In the meantime, do let us know your thoughts. If you’d like us to keep you up to date on developments you can join our Messenger chat list, or email us here.
Chris and the FPL Team x
Hi all. Thanks so much for your kind messages of support. We’re shocked and overwhelmed by the massive response we’ve had about this. However, let’s focus on being positive about FPL. Negativity is not our thing. We’re better than that. We’ve got the truth and the people on our side. Here’s some ideas:
- Share your referral link and help us grow.
- Share our YouTube videos: TV Ad, Losing Lotto Ticket Refunds, and BBC News interview.
- Review us on Trust Pilot.
- Help us choose a new name by taking this short survey.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks again. Chris and FPL Team x