In a recent trademark dispute, Amber Kotrri from Darlington emerged victorious against global fashion behemoth Zara, a development that has resonated with entrepreneurs embroiled in similar battles. Defending her House of Zana brand without legal counsel, Mrs Kotrri’s unwavering conviction swayed the registrar, who found the resemblance between the brands “too insubstantial and fleeting.” This triumph has inspired small business owners across Britain to stand their ground against corporate giants, harnessing both courage and evidence to defend their rights.
While the company desired an amicable resolution, Juhi Jain, a Jaipur-based entrepreneur, had limited options in her dispute with Zara. Rebranding can be costly, encompassing changes in packaging, merchandise production, website redesign, and social media updates. In Jain’s case, her shoe business Zarsa—a name derived from the Urdu word Zar and Hindi affix sa, meaning ‘like gold’—was at the heart of the matter. After two years of legal wrangling and considerable expense, she rebranded to Sozan Jaipur but experienced significant mental and emotional distress.
In the UK, major brands vigilantly monitor and protect their trademarks through teams at the Intellectual Property Office and Companies House. Mark Caddle, a partner at European intellectual property specialist Withers & Rogers, explained that trademarks help prevent copycat or competing brands from entering the market and assist consumers in avoiding confusion. He warned that small businesses that ignore rebrand demand letters from Zara might face legal action, as demonstrated in the House of Zana case.
Zara, owned by the prominent Inditex fashion distribution group and employing over 160,000 people across 6,400 stores of various brands, must protect its trademarks to prevent customer confusion. An Inditex spokesperson stated that the company always strives to avoid legal proceedings related to trademark registration. This highlights their preference for alternative methods to safeguard the brand names under their umbrella.
When Steve Powell, a graffiti artist from Leeds, began selling streetwear under the brand name STRX, he encountered legal action from clothing giant Stradivarius, owned by Inditex Group. Unaware of Stradivarius’ existence, Powell opted not to fight the case and rebranded his clothing range to REXNTRIC, avoiding further copyright or trademark law issues.
Moien Tayari, a London-based business owner operating Zaravand—a nut and spice company named after his wife’s birthplace in Iran—spent approximately PS4,000 on legal letters trying to preserve their name before opting to rebrand as Zoetic Ltd. He expressed his dismay at large organisations’ ability to bully smaller ones over minor trademark differences and emphasised the emotional toll of defending one’s brand against well-resourced corporate giants.
In response to such cases, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the government to support a resolution service targeted at these disputes. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) welcomed any suggestions that would streamline dispute resolution for smaller businesses and highlighted the measures they have already implemented to assist those affected by trademark registration conflicts.
While mediation services and low-cost appeals are available to help resolve trademark disputes, not all conflicts lead to distress or disappointment. A recent incident involving Vogue magazine and The Star Inn pub in Cornwall’s village of Vogue demonstrated that misunderstandings could be resolved amicably. Conde Nast gifted the pub a framed letter of apology in a gesture of goodwill, now hanging proudly on its wall.
Mrs Kotrri’s determination to challenge Zara has inspired others facing similar circumstances, urging them to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs. With the legal battle now behind her, Mrs Kotrri can register her ‘House Of Zana’ trademark without