Bentley Motors, a British manufacturer and marker of luxury vehicles, has recently lost a long-running trademark dispute against Manchester clothing company – Bentley Clothing, which implies that the car-giant can’t anymore use the Bentley name on its clothing range in the UK. For more than 30 years, Bentley Motors has been selling men and women’s clothing, including wallets, bags, purses, scarves, baseball caps, and wraps. However, a judge at the High Court in London has now ruled that Bentley Motors has violated the Trademark Rights of family-run Bentley Clothing by using the name Bentley on its own range of products.
Bentley Clothing started trading in 1962 and owns three trademarks corresponding to the word ‘Bentley’ registered in class 25 for use on clothing and headgear. The car firm had begun selling its clothing line in 1987 – a move described as ‘honest concurrent use’ of the trademark. The trademark dispute dates back to 1998 when Bentley Clothing had approached the Volkswagen-owned car company to license its mark to Bentley Motors. However, the luxury vehicle manufacturer countered by making attempts to cancel the clothing brand’s trademarks and failed miserably. Bentley Motors’ combination mark has two wings, joined by the letter ‘B’ at the center with the word Bentley written underneath. Bentley Clothing said in its lawsuit that the carmaker was well aware of its business and trademarks since 1998 and still started using the combination mark in 2002.
The recent decision rendered at the High Court means that even after several attempts made by Bentley Motors to cancel the Bentley Clothing’s trademark rights at the Intellectual Property (IP) Office of the UK; the car-giant no longer holds the rights to use the name on its clothing range in the nation. The court said that an average customer would see the car giant’s combination mark as two different trademarks used simultaneously with the dominant part of the trademark being ‘Bentley.’ Besides, the company will also have to restrict its future range of headgear and clothing to only caps, jackets, silk ties, and scarves.
A spokesperson for Bentley Motors said that the company is considering an appeal against the court’s decision and is very disappointed as their brand is recognized internationally operating in several markets around the world. He also mentioned that the company has been selling its clothing line in the UK for more than 30 years, and there has never been any confusion with another company’s trademark.
Simon Bennett of Fox Williams solicitors representing Bentley Clothing in the case said that this trademark dispute demonstrates the power of trademarks when it comes to protecting the trademark rights of even the smallest of companies against large multinational corporations.