Award winning ACID Members Robert Welch have reached a confidential settlement regarding a lookalike packaging dispute. The following statement was agreed by both sets of solicitors on behalf of Robert Welch Designs Limited and Marks & Spencer PLC.robertwelsh2.jpg

Cutlery and gifts specialist Robert Welch Designs Ltd and Marks and Spencer plc have reached a confidential settlement to the satisfaction of both parties involving a design dispute. Robert Welch claimed that Marks and Spencer plc had copied packaging designs from Robert Welch’s “Radford” cutlery range on Marks and Spencer’s “Loxley” and “Oxford” cutlery collections. Marks and Spencer deny any copying has taken place and maintain that the packaging was independently designed. No Admission of liability has been made.” Dids Macdonald, ACID’s CEO said, “Successful, design led cutlery designers, Robert Welch have always and will continue to have a proactive and robust approach to what they consider to be look alike copies on the market. Their last successful copying challenge was against Argos. Robert Welch spend a considerable amount of money developing product packaging and are determined to protect their brand image and not allow others to benefit on the back of their investments. One of the most difficult aspects to prove in any alleged copying is copyright infringement in packaging where the images have been changed sufficiently so that legal challenge is difficult (and costly!). This is a subject about which ACID has lobbied for some time now – a case for unlawful imitation. In these situations often designers have to rely on “passing off”. If a company has to rely on “passing off” it is necessary to provide independent evidence of consumer confusion. What chance does any small, successful, niche, design led company have with major retail brands? This is why it is so difficult to prove and why, as in some cases it would appear companies have to settle out of court and agree a joint statement. When one looks at the time involved (over two years!) in the above case, it begs the question – why didn’t both sets of lawyers suggest mediation as an alternative to litigation?”

Dids Macdonald will be writing to Robert Ivens, Head of M & S legal department who is a known supporter of mediation to seek M & S’s positive commitment that if there are incidences involving ACID members in the future, M & S will consider mediation. http://www.mediatetoresolve.com/ At least this would give both sides the opportunity to minimise legal costs and reduce the time involved by seeking an alternative dispute resolution.

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