Firm behind St Andrews Old Course has legal action thrown out of US court

The company behind the world famous Old Course at St Andrews has failed in an international legal action against a clothing firm it accused of counterfeiting and infringing its intellectual property.

St Andrews Links Limited, the corporate entity behind the home of golf, alleged the Source & Design International (UK) Limited had broken the law by using the famous St Andrews name to sell apparel.

Although the latter firm is based in the Renfrewshire village of Elderslie, the legal dispute ended up in a court nearly 5,000 miles away in the US state of California.

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It is there, St Andrews Links Limited claimed, that Source & Design had fallen foul of US laws by selling infringing clothing items to customers in California and Florida.

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However, more than a year after St Andrews brought the case to court, its lawsuit has been thrown out by a judge.

The little-known court case at the US District Court for the Northern District of California is a reminder of the global brand recognition of the St Andrews name, and the lengths to which those who have trademarked it will go to defend their rights.

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The initial complaint, filed by St Andrews Links Limited in August last year, accused Source & Design and its sole director, John Morton, of trademark infringement, counterfeiting, cybersquatting, and false designation of origin and unfair competition under what is known as the US Lanham Act, a long-standing piece of intellectual property legislation. The complaint also accused Mr Morton and his firm of breaching several Californian laws.

St Andrews claimed Mr Morton and his firm had infringed its US trademark by promoting and selling apparel bearing the ‘St Andrews’ name on its website, its social media profiles, and its Amazon merchant account.

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The St Andrews Links Trust is tasked with safeguarding the world famous Old Course - and its intellectual property. Picture: David Cannon/Getty

But Mr Morton and Source and Design filed a motion to dismiss the case, and the California court has accepted their arguments.

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Judge Jon Tigar said the sales detailed in the initial complaint represented the kind of “random, isolated, or fortuitous” interactions that were insufficient to establish what is known as personal jurisdiction.

Mr Morton told The Scotsman he was “very pleased” the judge decided to dismiss the complaint, but declined to comment further.

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St Andrews Links Limited is one of three subsidiary companies of St Andrews Links Trust, a body formed by a parliamentary act in 1974 to assume responsibility for the management and maintenance of the historic links.

St Andrews-branded merchandise is a crucial revenue stream for the trust, accounting for £2.7 million in income last year, and it has a bespoke brand protection team who oversee a tranche of trademarks around the world.

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Two years ago, it was thwarted in its attempts to register the town’s name as a trademark in the EU for travel, accommodation and catering services.

A spokesman for St Andrews Links Trust said it would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases, but stressed it would continue to challenge “all attempts by infringers and counterfeiters to breach our trademarks and intellectual property”.

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He said: “As a charitable trust which invests all profits back into protecting and maintaining the links on behalf of the people of St Andrews, it is imperative we protect our commercial interests and take action where this is threatened.”



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