Tartan Army name battle reaches Court of Session

A £300,000 battle over who can use the name ‘Tartan Army’ has reached Scotland’s highest court.
Supporters of the Scottish national team are referred to as the Tartan Army. Picture: Neil HannaSupporters of the Scottish national team are referred to as the Tartan Army. Picture: Neil Hanna
Supporters of the Scottish national team are referred to as the Tartan Army. Picture: Neil Hanna

The owners of the famous name for the Scotland national team’s supporters have taken a magazine publisher to court in a bid to stop him calling his title ‘The Famous Tartan Army magazine’.

Glasgow businessman Ian Adie registered the name ‘Tartan Army’ as a trademark in 1996 giving him sole rights to use the term ‘Tartan Army’ on a wide variety of merchandise including clothing, banners and scarves.

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He sold his business, Tartan Army Limited, to publicans Bob Shields and Don Lawson in 2006 and they took over ownership of the trademark.

They have now launched a £300,000 damages claim against Iain Emerson, who runs the The Famous Tartan Army magazine, and his company Alba Football Fans Limited, its publisher, at the Court of Session.

Mr Emerson argued no one can have exclusive rights over the name and that the trademark should be ruled invalid.

Following a preliminary hearing on the case, Judge Lord Glennie ruled that Mr Emerson, of Stirling, could not be sued personally, only his company.

Setting out the details of the case, he said: “The pursuer avers that the “Tartan Army” mark has developed and is now well established as a symbolic renowned brand associated with sporting spirit, friendly travelling support and fair play.

“It is the owner of a number of trademarks for the “Tartan Army” mark which have been filed and registered in the United Kingdom and a number of other countries.

“The pursuer avers that it offers a range of high quality goods and services to the public, including various sponsorship deals and travel promotions, through its online Tartan Army shop.

“The pursuer claims that from about 2007 or 2008 the defenders have infringed its rights in the “Tartan Army” trade mark by publishing a magazine known as “The Famous Tartan Army magazine” and offering other services using the “Tartan Army” mark.

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“It avers that the defenders’ sign highlights the words “Tartan Army” in a manner which is identical to the way in which those words appear when it uses them, and that the defenders offer goods, travel services and promotions identical with its own offerings.”

As well as damages Mr Shields and Mr Lawson are also seeking an interdict banning the magazine from using the name and an order “for destruction of all products and promotional and marketing material in the defenders’ possession using the ‘Tartan Army’ mark.”

Mr Emerson has claimed that the owners of Tartan Army Limited were aware of his magazine when they bought the company and that the previous owner had no issue with it.

He said Mr Shields and Mr Lawson had subsequently contributed to the publication and placed adverts in it.

Lord Glennie has now ruled a further hearing will be needed to discuss the case. No date has been set.

The “Tartan Army” name was first used in the late 1970s, when the Scotland football team qualified for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

A novelty song was released entitled “Ally’s Tartan Army” and has continued to be used by followers of the team ever since.