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Bentley Clothing wins longstanding trade mark battle


Bentley Clothing

The importance of protecting your intellectual property (IP) has been underlined in a longstanding trade mark infringement battle between Bentley Motors and a small family-run clothing company called Bentley Clothing.

Bentley Motors lost a High Court dispute to the clothing firm run by Chris and Bob Lees and will now no longer able to use the trade mark BENTLEY and  on clothing. It will also be ordered to pay damages and costs to Bentley Clothing and deliver up or destroy clothing which infringe the trade mark BENTLEY.

The case was brought by Bentley Clothing the owner of trade marks for BENTLEY for clothing dating back as far as 1982 and a long history of selling clothing dating back to 1962.

Bentley Clothing attempted to licence its mark to Bentley Motors over a number of years starting in 1998 when Chris Lees wrote to Ferdinand Piech, the CEO of Volkswagen which had bought Bentley Motors. But instead of negotiating a deal Bentley Motors tried to cancel Bentley Clothing’s trade marks at the UK Intellectual Property Office. This  lasted five years and ultimately failed.  Bentley Clothing had no choice but to protect its rights and issued High Court proceedings for trade mark infringement against Bentley Motors.

In a decision handed down by the High Court, His Honour Judge Hacon ruled in favour of the family-owned British business and found that Bentley Motors had infringed its registered trade marks for clothing.

Judge Hacon wrote: “I think that Bentley Motors’ policy will have had the intended effect of increasingly arrogating to itself goodwill associated with BENTLEY in the clothing business. This amounted to a steady encroachment on Bentley Clothing’s goodwill.” (para 158).

“My impression of Bentley Motors’ policy is … consistent with an intent to clear away Bentley Clothing’s right to protect the BENTLEY mark for clothing and headgear and ultimately to extinguish Bentley Clothing’s right altogether.”

Christopher Lees represented himself to defeat Bentley Motors’ trade mark cancellation attempts in the UKIPO. Fox Williams LLP represented Bentley Clothing in the High Court trade mark infringement action which began in 2017.

Simon Bennett from UKFT associate member Fox Williams solicitors, who handled the case for Bentley Clothing, said:  “This case shows the power of trade marks to protect the rights of even the smallest of companies against large multinationals. The Bentley Clothing trade marks were validly registered and survived numerous attacks by Bentley Motors. The Lees family as owners of the Bentley Clothing brand had no choice but to issue High Court proceedings to stop Bentley Motors from infringing their marks.”