A controversy has been brewing on social media this weekend, involving Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), and the UK trade mark ‘Glencoe’
On the 5th of August, Hilltrek business owner Dave Shand published a post on Facebook about a letter he had received from Shepherd and Wedderburn, acting on behalf of the NTS. The letter referred to Hilltrek’s Glencoe jacket – a double-layered Ventile waterproof that Hilltrek has made for 30 years – and pointed out that the NTS is the ‘registered proprietor of the UK trade mark registration for GLENCOE’. The letter went on to state that ‘NTS seeks to ensure that only goods and services of suppliers with geographical links to GLENCOE can bear the name GLENCOE’.
The bit of the letter that has caused such controversy is the NTS’s demand that Hilltrek ‘immediately stop selling any goods which include the name GLENCOE’ and ‘refrain from using GLENCOE on any future products’.
‘Shocked at their heavy-handed approach’
The post quickly went viral on social media, with well over 1,000 shares of the Facebook post at the time of writing and over 400 retweets on Twitter.
“I was shocked that they could trademark the name Glencoe and shocked at their heavy-handed approach,” Mr Shand told The Great Outdoors. “We would have preferred a discreet phone call rather than a threatening letter.”
Mr Shand went on to inform us that a spokesperson from the NTS called the brand to talk the matter through this afternoon, and although nothing has been concluded they are in talks to resolve the problem. “The NTS have admitted they were heavy-handed in their response,” Mr Shand said. “My biggest concern is that we don’t only sell a Glencoe jacket – we also sell a Kintail shirt, Cuillin jacket, and other products that use place names. Fortunately the outdoor community has been overwhelmingly supportive of our point of view.”
The Great Outdoors contacted the NTS for a response. We received this statement:
“In retrospect, although the letter sent to Hilltrek was a standard one, it may have been in the circumstances of this particular company too harsh in tone.
“Many people have been surprised that it is both possible and necessary to trademark a placename like Glencoe. This was a surprise to us too, when an attempt was made to trademark ‘St Kilda’ by a third party without our knowledge or consent, despite us owning and caring for the property. Although we eventually came to an agreement over this, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) confirmed that the bid had been both legal and permissible.
“From the outset we have never had any intention of undermining established and new businesses trading locally to our registered properties, and we have gone out of our way to ensure they can continue trading without interruption or cost. What we have done, after taking legal advice, is to contact a number of companies using trademarked names which are not local.
“In the case of Glencoe, we have, for example, contacted businesses based in England and France over the use of the name.
“Our only desire is to protect the properties in our care and stop them being exploited in ways which do not accord with our charitable purposes.
“Our letter to Hilltrek was intended to open up negotiation to establish if the company had legal prior trading rights and clearly the wording and tone did not convey this. We would be happy to enter into a dialogue with them with the aim of finding a mutually agreeable solution.”
In a subsequent post on Hilltrek’s Facebook page, Dave Shand wrote, “We sell a premium product made in Scotland so I can’t understand why this would be damaging to the trademark. We have also had offers of support from a resident of Glencoe in NZ who has suggested that perhaps we could name it after his town. Interesting – I wonder if it has an Aonach Eagach?”
Photo © Alex Roddie