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Recieved a letter threatening legal action

 
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mp1984
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Joined: 08 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:58 am    Post subject: Recieved a letter threatening legal action Reply with quote

Hi,
My small t shirt printing company recieved a (signed for)letter yesterday which is claiming I am infringing another small rivals rights..see below:

'we are concerned to discover that you are manufacturing, distributing and selling a number of tshirts of identical design.'
it goes on to list the offending designs, and claims I am misrepresenting them as being endorsed or associated by my rival.

In response I have sent off an email to the address in the letter, questioning what part of the design is causing the problem(yet to recieve a reply!), all the designs mentioned are widely available through different sites, and not particularly unique. Although the words on the shirt are the same as theirs, the designs including font and any pictures on the shirts are quite different and you could not mistake one shirt for the other even at twenty yards away.

Could you advise me what to do, should i be worrying about all the mentions of solicitors and courts and 'further action' in the letter?

Any advice is very much appreciated,
Mark.
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi mp,
Clearly you need the details of the infringement which is complained of by this other firm. They need to show that they genuinely are the copyright holders in whatever it is that makes up what they allege are "offending designs". If they simply market the tee-shirts under licence, and the copyright is owned by someone else, then they may have no rights (the legal term is 'standing') to persue infringement claims.
Since these are things printed on tee-shirts I would expect the issue to be over copyright rather than design right. Unregistered design right cannot be applied to surface decoration which is what printing on fabric is classed as. If they have registered the designs it is possible for them to include logos, slogans, text and artwork in the registration, and I would expect them to quote the registration details if this is the case. You can then go to the IPO website and look up the registration and confirm the designs are sufficiently similar. However unless they a large clothing company I would be very surprised if they have gone to the expense of registering their designs.

So that takes us back to copyright. Any artwork that is original can be subject to copyright. The likelihood of short pieces of text being subject to copyright is much less clear-cut and would probably have to be judged on a case by case basis. Do not assume that just because a design appears to be commonplace and available elsewhere that it is not protected by copyright. Other suppliers may be making the garments under licence from the copyright holder.

The claim of misrepresentation is a separate issue. I suspect that what they mean is 'passing-off'. This claim can only succeed if they have established goodwill in their business and products, such that it could be damaged if the public mistakenly identify your products as part of their company's branding. If they fail to prove this kind of public recognition in their brand as represented by their tee-shirts, especiall because as you say the goods are commonplace and available from other suppliers, then I don't think you need to worry about that aspect. Copyright infringement however could be a more serious concern, but even if it has occured, the matter could be sorted out by arbitration/mediation rather than threats of court action. It might even be possible for you to negotiate a licence to continue selling the designs.
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Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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mp1984
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andy, thanks for your detailed reply, very good of you to clear that up for us! Thanks again, mark
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