Moron in a Hurry

A legal standard coined by Justice Foster in the 1979 case Morning Star Cooperative Society v Express Newspapers. The genesis of the case was the launching by Express Newspapers of a new tabloid newspaper, the Daily Star, in 1978.

The rather monosyllabic Daily Star tends towards salacious stories, football (soccer), big very-large-font headlines, a full page topless model’s photograph on page three, and rarely discusses anything so intellectual as politics – its then editor (a former communist) was described as “so ignorant he thought ‘erudite’ was a type of glue,” a description for which he brought and lost a defamation case – he also allegedly described the newspaper’s content as being “tits, bums, QPR and roll your own fags.

The more tediously worthy, polysyllabic and puritanical Morning Star started in the 1930s as the Daily Worker and was avowedly communist in the 1970s. It has always had a much smaller circulation and tends to have primarily political stories, either denouncing Conservatives for their right wing politics, the Labour Party for betraying the working class and Liberals for being liberal – it is strong on polemics but does not do ‘tits and bums.’ Any illustrations in the 70s tended towards Socialist realism, fully suited apparatchiks wearing many lapel pins, or hirsute revolutionaries in military fatigues and berets; toplessness would have been limited to images of shirtless Stakhanovite heroes of the proletariat exerting themselves in some alleged ‘paradise of the working class.’

Despite the widespread use of “star” in newpaper names, the Morning Star chose to bring a suit for trademark infringement and passing off against Express Newspapers. Justice Foster, in dismissing the case stated:

if one puts the two papers side by side I for myself would find that the two papers are so different in every way that only a moron in a hurry would be misled.

Some cynics reading the judgment have suggested that its main weakness was that only a moron would buy either newspaper (the authors of this glossary are without an opinion on this point, reading neither if they can help it.) The ‘moron in a hurry’ standard has been cited from time to time in subsequent trademark cases around the world, possibly because it amuses the judge.

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