The IP Crowd
Intellectual property and an East London gallery
A bar and gallery is in a legal argument with the car manufacturer Jaguar over the right to their name.
It has been portrayed as a David and Goliath battle by the London press. A plucky, cool new arts collective (and bar) called Dream Girls Jaguar Shoes, is struggling with the legal division of Jaguar, a car manufacturer, for the right to trademark their name.
Jaguar Shoes was founded by brother and sisters in 2000, when they knocked an old bag store and an old shoe shop into one, squeezing a bar and gallery inside. Lacking the cash for a new sign, and probably keen on the image it gave them, they kept the name and sign. (See the banner image).
To protect their own identity, Jaguar Shoes have tried to patent the name after it was “plagiarised” by someone else. The car company Jaguar Land Rover has now objected the registration of the word Jaguar - which it sees as confusing to their brand.
So a bar which borrowed a brand based on a sign is protecting itself from “plagiarism” by registering the same name as a car company. I don’t feel too much sympathy for them.
For Jaguar, the objections are fairly understandable as you are damaging your brand value however different the two products. The owner of Jaguar Shoes said: “This is a point of principle for us and we will do whatever it takes to preserve the name and reputation of Jaguar Shoes... It’s a big part of our identity, for us it’s a heritage thing, it’s the signage there is the starting point for it all.
“There are hundreds of bars but Jaguar Shoes is more than a bar, that was our mandate from day one, we were a group in the creative industries wanting to create a place where those kind of people want to spend their time." Some might argue that this isn’t that much more than most bars, really.
Jaguar Shoes have shown they are pretty savvy. The press is interested, tempted as much by the case as by the list of celebrities they can associate with the story. The list of Jaguar Shoes patrons includes the big names (Natalie Portman) and local icons (The Mighty Boosh).
Intellectual property in the UK
The outcome will be announced sometime in June. But whoever wins, the argument highlights how outdated the intellectual property regulations are in the UK. They’re complicated, confusing, and contradictory.
This is a big issue for the creative industries. Author John Howkins wrote the book The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas, in 2001 and famously catalysed the impact of this on the creative economy. He influenced the UK government, whose definition of the creative industries is: "those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property".
Jaguar Shoes could be an influence, a plagiarist, a borrower, a mash up, or an outright copy - but it’s important for the sector that we know exactly what they are.
As for the owners of Jaguar Shoes, they might be consoled by the memory Xavvi, an short-lived chain of music and dvd shops that opened in the UK a few years ago. The Chief Executive was interviewed on the radio and asked why they’d chosen a name which didn’t mean anything. His answer was, “it’s the only name left”.
Banner image - Ewan-M on flickr creative commons
Inside the bar - Monsieur Paradise on flickr creative commons