Bentley vs. Bentley, David beats Goliath again

Luxury carmaker Bentley Motors, part of Volkswagen Group has lost in the London Court of Appeal against the Lees’ family owned company Bentley Clothing the legal dispute on the Bentley brand use on clothing.

The story is probably known to all the loyal readers of Brand Jam. Bentley Clothing is a British lifestyle apparel brand, established in 1962 and owned by the Lees family. It has in the past sourced a lot of its clothing range from Italian manufacturers. VW’s Bentley Motors launched a “Bentley” apparel range in the UK in 2005 through the Bentley Collection Limited website. According to Christopher Lees, Bentley Clothing managing director, the ticketing to VW’s Bentley clothing appeared to claim ownership of the registered “Bentley” trademark for clothing. “This has led some companies to doubt who is the rightful owner of the registered trademark for clothing in the UK.. Also, despite the fact we have produced lines of golfwear, Bentley Motors made efforts to market their own golfwear with Aquascutum, a brand we used to manufacture coats for.”

Bentley Clothing attempted to reach an amicable settlement, but Bentley Motors failed to accept any proposals, as Christopher Lees told us in our previous interview.

The litigation got worse when Bentley Motors applied to cancel all the Lees’ clothing company’s registered trademarks that go back as far as 1982.

In March 2017 the dispute seemed to come to an end, with Bentley Motor’s application declared invalid, and Bentley Clothing brand still in the Lees’ family ownership and control. After losing in High Court in 2019, Bentley Motors had then appealed, and only last week, by unanimous decision, Court of Appeal held that Bentley Motors had infringed the registered trademarks of Bentley Clothing by using the identical trademark on their clothing.

The result is that Bentley Motors must now stop using the trademark Bentley and their combination sign, the word Bentley with the B-in-wings logo, on clothing.

Judge Hacon declares: “My impression of Bentley Motors’ policy is consistent with an intent to clear away Bentley Clothing’s right to protect the BENTLEY mark for clothing and headgear and ultimately to extinguish Bentley Clothing’s right altogether”. The High Court decision even said that, “at the Chairman’s behest, a beanie hat and scarf were produced bearing the sign BENTLEY alone.”

Chris Lees, said, “We’ve tried to grow the clothing brand we bought in 1990 and it’s proven impossible. Bentley Motors forced us into a costly legal battle that has been ruinous in many ways. We’ll be very glad when we can finally put a stop to Bentley Motors’ infringements and begin to grow our business to what it once was.”

At the time we collected the first interview, in November 2015, Christopher Lees maintained that “My Bentley is a strong brand. It’s remembered well by many in the clothing and retail industry. In fact, one of the UK’s largest high-street fashion retailers, Edinburgh Woollen Mill/Peacocks even asked to buy the brand.”

Chris Lees said he hopes Bentley Clothing can once again reach the £5 million a year sales that it used to acheive when selling in department stores including House of Fraser and Fenwicks; and hundreds of independent retailers and golf club shops across the UK and Ireland.