Pringle knitwear battles to stop Greek brand using similar name

Models backstage at a Pringle of Scotland fashion show in London. Picture: Nicky J Sims/Getty Images
Models backstage at a Pringle of Scotland fashion show in London. Picture: Nicky J Sims/Getty Images
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One of Scotland’s best known fashion brands has become embroiled in a European legal battle with a Greek menswear firm it accuses of trading on its name.

Pringle of Scotland, the knitwear firm revered for its luxury cashmere, claims Pringley is trying to “ride on the coat tails” of its brand by trying to register its “highly similar” name as a trademark.

The Athens-based firm says it drew inspiration for the Pringley name from a cactus native to north-west Mexico.

It is one of several trademark disputes involving Scottish brand names being dealt with by the EU.

The Harris Tweed Authority is at odds with a Spanish clothing firm looking to register the logo for its brand, Harry’s. The name is written in an identical font to that used on the labels of genuine Harris Tweed garments.

One leading trademark attorney says that with Brexit creating uncertainty over intellectual property, Scottish firms should ensure they protect their brands.

The Pringle case, which has been going on since last spring, is one of several being handled by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, the body responsible for registering around 135,000 trademarks in the EU each year. Pringle, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2015, has urged the authority to reject the application to trademark Pringley, and is seeking costs.

In correspondence on behalf of the company, which was founded in Hawick, Campbell Newell, a partner in the Edinburgh office of intellectual property specialists, Marks & Clerk, accused the Greek company of inflicting damage on the Scottish firm’s historic reputation.

In his letter, Newell said Pringley “is seeking to ride on the coat tails” of the Scottish company and was “seeking to take advantage of effort and investment” by Pringle over many years.

Pringle, he points out has registered numerous trademarks throughout the world for its clothing, footwear and headgear, the earliest dating back to 1942.

They include several trademarks that apply in EU states, including Greece and Bulgaria, countries where Pringley says it has had its own trademark registered “for at least five years” in which it has “peacefully co-existed” with Pringle.

Newell said the word Pringley was “both visually and phonetically highly similar” to the Pringle name, and using it diminished Pringle’s distinctiveness.

But Athanassios Paraschos, an Athens lawyer, wrote: “We drew our inspiration for the creation of our trademark from Wikipedia, where we saw a cactus named Pachycereus Pringlei.”