Snorkel sues Instant UpRight

The European division of US aerial lift manufacturer Snorkel has taken legal action against Ireland's Instant Upright Ltd, for breach of a trademark licence agreement that permitted it to use the UpRight brand on aerial work platforms.
The proceedings have been issued before the Irish High Court, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for later this week.

The case revolves around a licence agreement between Instant Upright Ltd and Tanfield Engineering Systems Ltd which formed part of the deal in which Tanfield acquired the powered access business from Instant Upright in 2006 - see: Tanfield buys UpRight. Tanfield went on to buy Snorkel the following year and then in 2010 decided to drop the use of the UpRight name in favour of using the Snorkel brand on a global basis - see: Upright becomes Snorkel. Then in 2013 Don Ahern acquired 51 percent of Snorkel, taking over the business from Tanfield with the option to purchase the rest of the business at a later date if the Snorkel business generated the required profits and cash flow. That deal is also subject to a legal battle - see: Ahern Tanfield dispute goes legal.

Instant Upright is defending the proceedings, stating that Snorkel abandoned the use of the name 10 years ago when it rebranded as Snorkel and that Instant Upright is now using the same Instant Upright branding on its low level machines that it has been using on aluminium tower systems since 2007.

We understand that Instant Upright believes there is no case to answer and has applied for an order requiring Snorkel to lodge security for its potential defence costs.

Vertikal Comment

It would probably be unwise to comment on the legal aspects of this case, but it might be worth noting that the lawsuit follows Instant UpRight’s launch last year of a range of Chinese manufactured, UpRight branded, low level push around and self-propelled micro scissors - see: UpRight scissor lifts are back

Given that Snorkel’s previous owners gave up the UpRight name and its blue colour scheme, and that the use of the UpRight name was specifically retained in the Instant UpRight corporate and trading name, it is hard to understand the rationale behind this case. One assumes that Snorkel still has the right to use the UpRight name should it so choose, in which case this might be more about the exclusive right to use the brand name than anything else? It is hard to see Instant UpRight ever becoming a mainstream competitor to Snorkel or making a dent in its platform sales.

It will be interesting to see how this case develops, however.


It seems that Instant Upright did not contact Snorkel / Tanfield before they branded their new equipment. Might have been a better solution. They should have known that Tanfield /Snorkel own the brand name and certainly Tanfield would never give something away for free.

Mar 3, 2020
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