Conservation Series

NTS Backs Down in 'Glencoe' Copyright Row

An agreement has been announced between the National Trust for Scotland and a small outdoor gear manufacturer, in a dispute over commercial use of the name Glencoe.

Copyrighting place names; should it be allowed? We haven't the foggiest  © Dan Bailey
Copyrighting place names; should it be allowed? We haven't the foggiest
© Dan Bailey

News earlier this month that the Trust had threatened Aberdeenshire firm Hilltrek with legal action on the grounds of copyright infringement (see here) was met with widespread condemnation, and not a little ridicule.

Following what are described as 'cordial and constructive meetings', the disputing parties have now reached an understanding that ensures the Trust recognises Hilltrek's prior rights to use of the name.

"I am delighted that we were able to come to an agreement so quickly and that Hilltrek will continue to sell our ... Glencoe jackets" the firm's Director Dave Shand said.

"As I have said before, the National Trust for Scotland does a lot of good work protecting and caring for the places our customers enjoy. I urge people to go on supporting the charity and the work they do."

But the row raised an interesting issue. Hilltrek have made a 'Glencoe DV' jacket for 30 years, while the NTS own the actual Glen Coe. Who owns the name? Legally speaking, it seems the Trust do - and they have been systematically trademarking their property names for some time, in order, they say, to prevent any third party from doing so.

"When we first took action to protect our properties and the Trust through the application of trademarks, our intention was always to ensure that this protection also sheltered local businesses and communities from exploitative or inappropriate use of the names in question" said the Trust's Director of Customer & Cause, Mark Bishop.

"We were always clear that we did not see the trademarks having any effect whatsoever on established businesses with local products."

"On this occasion, we got it wrong. If we had done our homework on Hilltrek before our lawyers contacted them, it would have been clear that this was a Scottish company which has been manufacturing this product with this name for a number of years. Our first response would then have been to come to a mutual agreement over the issue, which is what we have now achieved."

"I am pleased to say that there will be no restriction on Hilltrek continuing to use Glencoe as before as the name of this product line. There is much we have in common as we both appeal to people who love Scotland's magnificent wild lands and this is something we want to focus on together."

"From the beginning we were reluctant to trademark our property place-names but felt we had no choice once it became clear to us that the authorities permit these place names to be registered by other parties. This means that anyone from any nation may be able to trademark our properties, quite possibly in connection with a product we don't want to be associated with."

"If the authorities across the UK and Europe, and the politicians they answer to, want to review the decision to allow place-names to be trademarked, we would wholeheartedly support this."

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