The famous car manufacturer Bentley Motors has lost in a clothing brand dispute about the mark Bentley against Bentley Clothing in the High Court in London. Bentley Motors may no longer sell its own clothing line under the name Bentley in the UK.
Last Friday, the High Court in London ruled that the car manufacturer Bentley Motors, which has belonged to VW for more than 20 years, had infringed the UK trademark of Brandlogic and its company Bentley Clothing.
Trademark dispute over Bentley as a clothing brand
The case is part of a long-running trademark dispute over the famous Bentley brand as a clothing brand. UK-based Brandlogic and its company Bentley Clothing brought an injunction against Bentley Motors in 2017 and sold Bentley Motors’ own clothing line for motor and leisure wear. The lawsuit was preceded by an initiative by Bentley Motors, which sought the cancellation of Brandlogic’s trademarks relating to Bentley Clothing in 2015. When this attempt was rejected by the court in 2017, Brandlogic in turn filed the injunction action, which was now decided in favor of Brandlogic and against Bentley Motors.
The case is part of a long-running trademark dispute over the famous Bentley brand as a clothing brand. UK-based Brandlogic and its company Bentley Clothing had filed an injunction in 2017 against Bentley Motors and its sale of its own clothing line, Bentley Motor, for engine and leisure wear. The lawsuit was preceded by an initiative by Bentley Motor, which sought the cancellation of Brandlogic’s trademarks in 2015. When this attempt was rejected by the court in 2017, Brandlogic in turn filed the injunction action, which was now decided in favor of Brandlogic and against Bentley Motors.
Brandlogic had argued that Bentley Motors was infringing its registered trademarks by creating and marketing its own clothing line. Brandlogic, based in Manchester (UK), with its company Bentley Clothing, is the owner of the Bentley clothing brand in the UK.
Both marks have been used in the UK for many years.
The Bentley brand was founded in 1962 by Gerald Bentley in London and is now owned by Christopher Lee, also the trademark “Bentley 1962”. His father Bob Lees bought the Bentley brand from its founder Gerald Bentley in 1991. At its peak in the early 1990s, the Bentley apparel brand was sold throughout the UK, including Fenwick and golf clubs. Today, little Bentley Clothing is sold.
Volkswagen in turn bought Bentley Motors in 1998 and soon decided to develop its own clothing line for the famous car brand. This was very much in line with the trend, and Jeep and Porsche, among others, produced their own clothing line for the car brand. Since 2000, the Surrey-based Bentley Collection Limited has been operated by Bentley Motors as a clothing product line. This marked the beginning of the brand dispute over the Bentley apparel brand.
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Peaceful coexistence of trademarks or trademark infringement?
The High Court in London ruled last Friday, according to the BBC report, that Bentley Motors had violated the trademark rights of Bentley Clothing of Manchester by using the name Bentley for its own clothing product line. Bentley Motors must limit its future UK clothing programme to “jackets, silk ties, hats and scarves” and must not sell any other clothing or headgear.
Bentley Motors claimed, inter alia, that there had long been peaceful coexistence of the marks in dispute in the UK. The High Court also admitted coexistence for the early days of Bentley Motors’ clothing line. However, the court also explained that Bentley Motors had increasingly changed its clothing line in direct competition with Bentley Clothing, culminating in the futile attempt to have Brandlogic’s Bentley Clothing brands deleted.
In any case, a peaceful coexistence of trademarks can only be successfully asserted if there is no likelihood of confusion between the trademarks, the ECJ recently ruled in the Tropical case. Bentley Motors therefore lost the trademark dispute Bentley for clothing before the High Court in London – however, an appeal is possible.
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