Blue Bentley car

Bentley forced to eliminate fashion line in trademark dispute

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. A luxury car manufacturer, Bentley Motors, has been ordered to destroy a range of clothing merchandise after losing a trademark battle with a fashion company, Bentley Clothing.
  2. The High Court ruled in 2019 that Bentley Motors had infringed the trademark of Manchester-based Bentley Clothing, and was no longer able to use the name, either on its own or in conjunction with its distinctive logo, on its clothing range in the UK.
  3. The car manufacturer was been told to destroy clothes featuring the Bentley logo, and Bentley Clothing is pleased that the matter has been resolved

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After a lengthy trademark battle, the High Court ruled in 2019 that Bentley Motors had infringed on Manchester-based fashion company’s brand - and ordered them to cease using their name for clothing merchandise. Unfortunately, after losing an appeal against this ruling recently, they were required to destroy all remaining items featuring the Bentley logo across its UK range of apparel. This decision comes as quite a surprise considering how long established luxury car manufacturer has been operating with respectability and prestige; however, it serves as a reminder of just how seriously companies must take legal requirements surrounding trademarks if they wish to remain within the limits set out by law.

In 2019, Bentley Motors were restricted from using its name or logo in conjunction with its clothing range within the United Kingdom. Furthermore, a court ruling meant that any future apparel was limited to just jackets, silk ties caps and scarves. Christopher Lees of Bentley Clothing expressed his relief at having the matter resolved but also noted how negatively it had impacted business operations; “We tried to be very reasonable when negotiating with them – however this attempt seemed futile as they wanted our rights completely extinguished! As such we have really suffered due to these events” he said sadly.

After years of negotiations and a High Court action launched in 2017, it appears that the clothing retailer founded by businessman Gerald Bentley in 1962 - which was later bought by the Lees family in 1990 - is finally able to move forward. The dispute began when they approached car giant Bentley Motors back in 1998 about their branding clash; with them having held onto their trademark since 1982, but unsuccessful attempts were made for cancellation at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

The manufacturer expressed their great disappointment and accepted the judgement, yet urged Bentley Clothing to donate the stock with removed branding to charities in this time of crisis. However, Mr Lees commented that they couldn’t remove some logos due as they were printed within fabrics themselves. He added that such garments could be a burden on charity organisations if damaged from removal attempts.

At its peak, the Lees’ clothing group was a formidable business run by Robert and his sons Christopher and Richard. Sadly, Richard passed away in May this year. During its heyday, it had factories located across Wigan, Stretford Rusholme; Ripponden near Halifax as well as Ashton-under-Lyne with 400 staff employed to fulfil orders for brands including Burberry and Aquascutum. Volkswagen-owned Bentley Motors has been an important asset to Crewe Cheshire’s economy since its manufacturing plant opened over 20 years ago there. Unfortunately, they announced plans earlier in June that would lead to up 1 000 job losses at their factory complex.