Bentley Motors Loses Trademark Battle With Bentley Clothing

The tiny clothing company gets to keep its name, and Bentley Motors takes a lump.

Bloomberg Finance LP

Picture the stereotypical sports car driver. Maybe he's decked out in a bunch of silly manufacturer-branded gear? A Ferrari hat here, an Porsche shirt there, embroidered logos everywhere—it's all part of the package. Except for Bentley drivers, apparently. The company makes only a tiny amount of revenue from their limited collection, which is mostly bags and jewelry. And their most recent push to change that ran into a brick wall this month, when the U.K. Intellectual Property Office struck down their attempt to bar a 55-year-old manufacturer called Bentley Clothing from using their name and presumably take it for themselves.

It's your basic David vs. Goliath story. Founded in 1962 as a golf apparel company and recently revived by a father and son team, Bentley Clothing employs under ten people and sells its wares in just a few stores in England. And we're not talking about some successful high-end brand—they've struggled to find their footing in the marketplace as the battle drags on. It all started when they re-registered for their trademark in 2008, just three years after Bentley Motors launched their own clothing line. BM must have been pretty peeved, because they immediately filed papers accusing the clothing company of benefiting from its own luxury image and demanded they stop. Classy.

But last week a hearing officer at the UK Intellectual Property Office gave it right back to Bentley Motors, ruling that because the brand does not have a notable or historical reputation as a clothing manufacturer, there's nothing in the name that benefits Bentley Clothing in their business. So they should be free to use it, and BM is said to be "examining its legal options."

Why does it ultimately matter for Bentley Motors? They're falling behind their rivals in what's becoming a big source of money—the luxury lifestyle business. Aston Martin launched several expensive clothing lines with Hackett last year, a side project that reportedly brought in millions in revenue, and CEO Andy Palmer believes the luxury goods business could reach half of Aston Martin's total revenue one day. 

For now, "B" with a circle is clothes, and B with a wings (up top) is cars. 

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