Client Case Study: The Pitch-Saver Sign
As the owner of a motorhome who travelled regularly across the UK, Mike Jubb realised that the old-fashioned sign with a stake was not the best solution to reserving a pitch for his motorhome, especially on a hardstanding.
Mike came up with the idea of using a durable, plastic A-framed sign that could be personalised with exterior quality vinyl for each customer with their own photos and wording; he also thought up a simple way of stopping the sign from blowing over on windy days by using a filled two-litre water bottle suspended from the centre hinge of the sign.
The first sign was sold in June 2010 and with increased demand for the product further marketing material followed, along with a new website (www.pitch-saver.co.uk) to spread the news of the Pitch-Saver sign.
In 2014, Mike registered the name Pitch-Saver as a UK Trade Mark to try to safeguard himself against any other traders trying to use the same name.
After some years of trading, Mike had found that a considerable number of sellers on eBay (notably caravan/camping shops) were selling motorhome pitch signs very similar to his own, and this competition was affecting his own sales.
Mike approached London IP in 2017 asking for advice as to how he might prevent the competitors from encroaching on his market. London IP explained that he would not be able to stop competitors from selling products that did the same thing as the overall idea was not protected.
However, Mike was also advised that he had a number of enforceable intellectual property (IP) rights including passing off rights, registered trademark rights, unregistered design rights and copyright in the layout of the sign. These IP rights would allow Mike to restrain the sale of any signs with similar layouts and to restrain the sale of any signs with similar or identical names.
London IP looked at each infringer individually and assessed the IP rights involved in each case. Draft cease and desist letters to all the infringers were then prepared and once these had been finalized with Mike the letters were dispatched.
Within hours all but one of the infringers had removed their listings from the Internet and Mike saw an increase in sales.
The last remaining infringer, upon receipt of their letter, replied to London IP questioning “what happened to fair competition?”.
In response London IP pointed out that Mike had nothing against fair competition but had every right to restrain unfair competition!
The infringer had been at liberty to design their own product that was different in appearance but Mike was perfectly entitled to object to the sale of copycat products that infringed his intellectual property rights. This is the very reason that intellectual property laws exist. After a further exchange of letters the remaining infringer removed their product from sale.
Mike continues to monitor his competitors and occasionally contacts London IP when any potential issues arise. He is very happy with the outcome and states that he wishes he had contacted London IP much earlier.