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Campaign body demanding compensation and accounts info.

Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 4:15 pm
by bbloke
I've been selling a slogan badge for several years which says Bring Back British Rail.

Apparently there is a campaign group of the same name and they have contacted me to say that I should be donating all the proceeds from the sale of the badge to their campaign. They also want to know how long I've been selling them for and how man I've sold.

I've had a look and they seem to be a one person organisation. They're not registered as a company, nor as a charity.

An IPO search returned no trademark for the slogan.

Normally I'm happy to stand aside for things such as this but they're being really quite aggressive and it's, frankly, annoyed me!

Where do I stand and how should I reply, if at all?

Posted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:24 am
by AndyJ
hi bbloke,

There is something called unregistered trade mark which is normally enforced using the tort of passing off, but from what you have been able to discover I think it is highly unlikely that this tort could be used as the basis of a claim against you.

For passing off to be established, there needs to be existing goodwill in the 'trade mark' which attaches to the owner or his company. Bring Back British Rail is a slogan which may be fairly familiar but it doesn't (to me at least) have any association with a particular organisation, in the same way that Ban The Bomb was once closely associated with CND, so I don't think that would be a viable cause of action. And in any case, although the organisation does sell other merchandise using the slogan, it would be hard to argue that your sales are likely to cause harm to any goodwill that may exist; on the contrary your sales and the wearing of your badge would actually enhance the cause which, presumably, this organisation exists to promote. However to bring a claim, they would need to be an incorporated body, which it does not appear that they are (see below).

Clearly there can be no copyright in the words, and as long as your badges do not include the logo (a reversed British Rail logo) copyright would not seem to be at issue. Even if you have used their logo, it is highly doubtful whether it is sufficiently original to qualify for copyright. That said, they appear to imply some sort of claim to intellectual property rights through the statement on their website: "Bring Back British Rail logo / identity designed by Fraser Muggeridge."

A less likely threat to you comes from section 62 of the Charities Act 1992. There are many forms of charitable organisation (see also the Charities Act 2011), not all of which need to be registered, or at least not necessarily registered with the Charities Commission. However on this organisation's website they claim to be a ‘non-charitable campaigning body’ so it would appear that that they cannot invoke section 62. In any case, this is not the place to go into charity law in detail, so I suggest that just to be sure of your position, you contact the Charities Commission and ask for their advice on this body's charitable status, if any.

Other than the two possibilities given above, I am at a loss to understand why this person/organisation thinks they are entitled to your profits. Clearly as it appears that they do not have charitable status (which they are legally required to declare on all correspondence etc), are not an incorporated body which is able to sue in its own name, and haven't explained in detail what their complaint is, I think you can safely ignore them until they come up with a more specific, substantive complaint.

Posted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:09 am
by bbloke
Thanks for the advice, AndyJ!