Devon-based educational children’s clock business, Oyster & Pop, recently found itself at the receiving end of a letter from the prestigious luxury watch company Rolex. The multinational brand’s lawyers urged Oyster & Pop to rebrand, citing potential confusion between their clocks and Rolex’s iconic Oyster Perpetual watches. Emma Ross-McNairn, Director of Oyster & Pop, expressed her anger at the situation, labelling it ‘nonsense’ and the letters from the lawyers as ‘bullish’. Attempts to secure a comment from Rolex’s representatives have yet to respond.
Oyster & Pop is known for selling wall clocks designed to teach children how to tell time. At the same time, Rolex enjoys a reputation as a provider of high-end wristwatches, such as the iconic Oyster Perpetual and Submariner lines, which can cost thousands of pounds. Lawyers representing Rolex, a dominant Swiss luxury watch market player, argued that customers might mistakenly believe Oyster & Pop products originate from them due to logo similarities, stating: “The average reasonably well-informed consumer will inevitably be misled into believing your products emanate from Rolex.”
The lawyers demanded the firm change their logo, website domain, and name to avoid legal action. Mrs Ross-McNairn expressed concern about the impact such a change would have on their business: “It would just crush our business.” She noticed the disparity between Rolex’s high-profile sponsorships and Oyster & Pop’s modest children’s clock company. Ross-McNairn and her sister Sarah Davies founded the business in 2020 when they were put on leave; since then, they have expanded their product line to include chore charts and fraction sets.
The sisters, who named their business after their childhood street, recently responded to Rolex with a nine-page letter outlining their reasons for rejecting the claims. They also proposed an agreement never to produce adult watches or change the brand’s name from ‘Oyster’. Intellectual property law specialist Giles Parsons noted that such cases are common, but only 1% proceed to a hearing. Trademark oppositions are more prevalent than court proceedings, which are costly and time-consuming. Companies should monitor competitors’ trademarks to avoid infringement and legal consequences.
Rolex USA, which holds a trademark for ‘oyster’, recently won a legal battle against Oyster & Pop in the United States. The women applied for a trademark under the clocks category. Still, they could not mount an effective defence due to financial constraints and legal restrictions on representing themselves in US courts. Rolex’s lawyers recommended that Mrs Ross-McNairn and her business partner switch their application filing to the Toys & Games category as a potential solution, but this was later deemed ineffective. Despite numerous attempts to contact Rolex for comment, they have yet to respond.