Cooper v. Cooper: lawyers and brand management don’t always mix
As updated at an earlier entry, I received a telephone call from Kim McLeod at A. J. Park & Son, representing Trelise Cooper Ltd., today.
I’ll blog about two things, one of which concerns me directly. I might as well, while this is fresh in my mind. As readers know, evidence in the pleadings includes the suggestion that Tamsin Cooper is passing off her goods as Trelise Cooper’s—and Tamsin’s web site photograph, which features a woman with a hairstyle similar to Trelise’s, is used as proof.
As explained on this blog, live on radio last year, and live on television last week, the photograph is a coincidence. Yet, I have heard a claim that A. J. Park did not know of the situation behind this photograph when the High Court pleadings were made last month.
Since I know Kim from having worked on a few cases with him—as he is now a reader of this blog he may be able to recall exactly how many—I somehow think he would not be negligent. Therefore, I wonder if the client has given him the full story.
And it makes me wonder if Lucire should remain the ofﬁcious bystander. Both parties get coverage in my title. In the May print issue, out on May 8, Trelise Cooper garments feature either on one page or two pages, prominently, in a lovely shoot by Anna Lund.
Kim was looking after the interests of his client and was right to call me. He knows of my legal background. My evidence has helped him on a number of cases in what I like to think were signiﬁcant ways, for clients much bigger than Trelise Cooper. And there were a couple of things we didn’t see 100 per cent eye to eye on today. They are minor. But we spent more time on them than necessary.
Legalese doesn’t faze me. I caned everybody in my IP class at uni. I don’t like feeling patronized, even if I pull the Lt Columbo thing in some of my dealings with people (it’s called humility. Wonderful invention).
As the publisher of fashion magazines internationally, an author of branding books published here and in the UK, a practising brand expert, a law graduate (heck, I was suing people before I graduated), a business graduate (thrice!), a regular contributor to academic journals, and a regular witness on intellectual property cases, I know what I am talking about. On this case, no one knows more about the authorities and issues than me.
So now I think: maybe Lucire should not run those photographs.
Let’s just say that if the Trelise Cooper camp trades on negativity, then I have to question whether I want brands like that associated with my own.
Lawyers serve a vital, important function in society: viz. the seeking of justice. It’s why I went to law school. I have maintained that ideal, keeping one eye on justice and truth in all my work.
It’s normal for lawyers to be details’ people. In doing so, it’s human to become defensive over your own patch. Yet as a result of arguing minutiæ, the involvement of the legal profession seems to generate negativity where there was none.
Would I have felt that way if matters were left alone? I might not have focused on Trelise Cooper Ltd. in my blogging today, to be sure.
The Tamsin Cooper camp has remained fairly quiet with regard to Lucire other than purchasing some ads. The ad department does not control editorial.
We have tried hard not to tip things one way or another, but our brand values state that Lucire must be empowering for readers. To me, that means understanding karma and whether others contribute positively to ours, and, by extension, our readers’.
After today, I am not sure if Trelise Cooper is generating good karma.
Yet it’s not going to help any party, if I am called as a witness, if my publications show any bias.
It’s a dilemma that we can address in the way we know how: with benevolence. Let both designers feature. Stay above it all till one of the parties really pisses us off over something important. Then I will make up my mind on who is good, and who is evil. And whom I may blacklist in the interests of our readers.
Kind of proves the point of what I wrote earlier.
Del.icio.us tags: Tamsin Cooper | Trelise Cooper | intellectual property | law | branding | brands | lawsuit | Lucire | publishing Posted by Jack Yan, 10:12
PS.: Actually readers, how about it? Do I run those pages with Trelise Cooper’s designs or not? (N.B.: the decision is not mine alone.)
I have read alot about this case in the media but of course you never quite know what's true and what's been embellished. Personally I do'nt see how anyone could be copying someone else unless they blatantly steal or use their designs or images etc. Has Tamsin done this?
Whatever you decide, remember that you have a brand to protect.
# posted by Andrea Weckerle: 4/05/2006 01:54:00 AM
Thanks, Andrea. Perhaps the objectivity needs to come ﬁrst. We’ll judge the designs on their merit and leave the personalities aside. However, I did get into publishing to redress the balance, to speak up for those who could not do so for themselves. I believe that is where the dilemma lies.
Amy, the media can be a bit slanted. The Southland Times ran a photograph, long before Trelise formally complained of copyright issues, comparing coat designs from Trelise and Tamsin. It also ran a major article quoting Paula Ryan, who advised Tamsin to back down and change her brand to just ‘Tamsin’—though if she followed her own advice, her brand would be just ‘Paula’.
The best way to get the facts is to read the case. I have the original trademark opposition of Trelise Cooper, though I have not had the time to get the full statement of claim this time from the High Court. What I have so far are the exhibits from Trelise’s side.
Given those exhibits, and what Kim told me, I have a pretty good idea of the whole thing—I dare say better than most members of the media who didn’t put themselves through law school!
To answer your question, and based on my judgement, Tamsin claims to have drafts and independent sources for her work. Therefore, the onus is on Trelise to show that copying took place to such an extent that consumers are confused between the two brands.
The irony is that the more this gets into the media, the less likely consumers will be confused—if they ever were. That’s why I say the trademark case should have been heard ﬁrst: evidence of confusion would have crept up, and she could have used that (or not used it, depending which way it swung) and the High Court would have found it highly persuasive. If that evidence favoured Trelise, then she would have a stronger case in her causes of action. If the evidence did not, then she could have used another tack for her High Court case. Right now, I believe she risks failing on all counts.
I personally fail to see how an escalation to the High Court helps Trelise. And it certainly does not help Tamsin. If one plus one still equals two, I am not sure it serves the course of justice, either.
Except, of course, it does help lawyers on both sides “earn” fees.
Yep, the penny just dropped.
Your comments are dead right Jack. Thanks for clearing it up for me. I feel the same way you do. :0)
Thanks, Amy. Being totally immodest, I like to think mine’s a better summary of the case than what the mainstream media have talked about.Post a Comment
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