In Need of a Service: Bentley loses trademark battle

November 15, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Bentley Motors has lost a 20 year running trademark battle over the word “Bentley” with a small Manchester based clothing business.

What does this mean?

Brandlogic has owned three trademarks for the word “Bentley” registered for clothing and headgear since 1982. Bentley Motors uses a mark which comprises of two wings, with the letter “b” in the centre, and the word “Bentley” written underneath. As has become common for motoring companies, it began selling branded merchandise, including clothing. The sale of clothing with the word “bentley” on it would seem to infringe the trademark owned by Brandlogic. Thus in 1998 Brandlogic reportedly approached the carmaker with licencing opportunities, but these were rejected. In 2015 Bentley Motors sought the cancellation of the clothing companies trademarks, but this was rejected in 2017 and the motor company was issued with an injunction.

The 1st November 2019 saw the long running dispute come to an end with the High Court ruling that Bentley Motors had infringed trademarks owned by Brandlogic. As a result, Bentley Motors can no longer use the word Bentley on clothing. While Bentley Motors is considering an appeal, should they not be successful they could be forced to destroy their branded clothing.

What's the big picture effect?

The case highlights the importance of trademark registration in protecting rights, and the extent of these rights. Following this case, it is clear that a registered trademark is able to protect a brand regardless of its size and/or the size of its competitors. Interestingly, both companies owned registered trademarks for the same word, but in different categories. Thus the expansion of the car company to seek to use its branding in another category, clothing, resulted in infringement. While it is possible under EU law for trademarks to coexist, this can only occur where there is no likelihood of confusion between them. Bentley Motors had argued that this was the case, but the court evidently thought differently.

Brandlogic’s lawyer, Simon Bennett, summed it up nicely by stating that that the “case shows the power of trademarks to protect the rights of even the smallest companies against large multinationals”.

Report written by Julie Lawford

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