Entrepreneur's teapot logo causes a stir

Tearoom owner Jemma Swallow had no idea of the trouble about to boil over when she chose the fitting but ubiquitous item of a teapot for the main design of her logo.

Positioned with its spout facing left and framed by a square, her multi-coloured teapot logo seemed a safe, creative way to promote her Richmond-based shop, the Tea Box.    ***image2***

But a German corporate, also in the tea trade, attacked it for being ‘confusingly similar’ to its own teapot logo, in spite of it being right-facing, circular and two-tone.

If successful, the official complaint by Teekanne would have landed the small tearoom in Surrey with a sizeable legal bill, on top of the costs of a total re-brand.

Fortunately for Ms Swallow, patent experts at Withers & Rogers offered to take her case for free because, they told FreelanceUK, they were so “amazed at the temerity” of the Dusseldorf-based giant.

“This was a clear case of a big multinational taking advantage by trying to force their [intellectual property] rights with money talking,” added Mark Armitage, a partner at the firm.

“We don’t normally take on cases pro-bono…but we are certainly happy to advise any creative firm on trademarks, particularly on research and protection matters.”

Contrary to reports, the dispute was not a ‘test case,’ despite it causing other teapot logo owners to stir, as no point of law other than infringement of IP was claimed.

However, just before the row was due for a trademark tribunal hearing, Teekanne withdrew its complaint. The firm yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment.

“Visually, the logos do look rather different,” Mr Armitage said, responding to questions. “Also phonetically, they [the companies] are completely different.”

“The basic bottom line is that nobody can claim a teapot as such for their own, which was what this German company was trying to do.”

He said that although the row was coming to an end for Ms Swallow, his firm will be pursuing Teekanne for the costs incurred from defending its ‘unjustified’ objection.


11th March 2009

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