Tartan Ribbon

Burberry Tartan Ribbon Info.

i n f o r m a t i o n

As many customers do ask, we normally include a little "potted history" but the Burberry tartan is a modern tartan, so we've included a little background information instead . . .

Love them or hate them, Burberry have moved from the domain of exclusive fashion to mainstream retail. We're concerned only with how they impact upon tartan and, to be honest, it's not a particularly pleasant story. With scant regard for the hisroty of tartan or the wayu in which thousands of tartans sit side-by-side, Burberry have come uinto the market with an army of corporate lawyers, ready to threaten and sue anyone who gets in their way. Even using the name "Burberry" can, they claim, be an infringement of their intellectual property rights.

Here's a story which first appear in the respected Glasgow newspaper, the Sunday Herald in 2003 . . .

Burberry tries to kill off traditional tartan rival; Fashion giant

Sunday Herald, May 18th 2003, article by Liam McDougall 

ITS designer shirts and baseball caps have come to be associated with football's hooligan element. But Burberry, the international fashion brand, stands accused of its own yobbish behaviour - trying to stop Scottish weavers producing a Thomson clan tartan because it is too similar to its own.

In an effort to preserve sales, the multi-billion pound firm, whose distinctive check design has been made famous by Madonna, Kate Moss and David Beckham, has contacted traders to demand that they stop selling Camel Thomson tartan goods.

The tartan - adapted from the 1906 MacTavish clan design - is known as one of Scotland's most historic and is registered on the database of the Scottish Tartans Authority.

But Burberry has waged war on the design, saying that the two are "confusingly similar". Sarah Corbett, Burberry's lawyer, has written to the Scottish Tartans Authority - the industry body - claiming that the Thomson tartan infringes Burberry's trademark.

In the letter, she writes: "Trademark registrations are infringed by any person or company who, without the consent of Burberry, uses a check which is confusingly similar to the Burberry Check.

"Both the Burberry Check and the Camel Thomson tartan consist of a number of parallel horizontal black lines intersecting with an equal number of black vertical lines with the colour white predominating at the point of intersection, and with a single red vertical line on a camel background.

"It is these similarities between the two checks which make it very likely that customers, on seeing products bearing the Camel Thomson tartan, will be confused into thinking that those products originate with Burberry."

The "cease and desist" letters from the company has led to Scottish weavers altering the Camel Thomson tartan by changing its colours or stopping its production altogether.

Brian Wilton, of the Scottish Tartans Authority, said: "I have received panicky phonecalls from traders worried that they may face legal action over selling Camel Thomson goods.

"Despite there being clear differences, there is no doubt that the Thomson Camels are similar to the Burberry Check. But even closer similarities than this can be ascribed to many of the 5200 tartans in the Scottish Tartans Authority database.

"While the authority is more than willing to co-operate with Burberry, it cannot and will not recommend that its members desist in weaving and marketing what is a legitimate and historical Scottish tartan. What Burberry are doing could certainly be construed as bully- boy tactics."

The weavers say that they are being unfairly targeted by a firm whose recent success has led it to challenge any threat to its product. Although no legal action has yet been taken against them, many weavers say they have been left with no choice but to comply with the company's demands.

Blair Macnaughton, managing director of Scottish weaving company, the Macnaughton Group, said: "Our company withdrew the Camel Thomson because we did not have the resources to stand a challenge. We did not want to put ourselves in that position.

"Burberry are trying to bully people out of using not just the Camel Thomson tartan but any camel checks. I don't see why Burberry should stop me. We haven't had any threatening letters from Burberry but I am aware that others have."

David Cowley, managing director of the Forfar-based Strathmore Woolen Company, added: "I think Burberry are flexing their muscles. Over the last 20 years we have produced hundreds of pattern books containing the Camel Thomson tartan. I don't see why I should throw away what has been a (pounds) 100,000 investment in producing these books and making the tartans. We feel that Burberry is in the wrong."

Last night, Burberry refused to comment but many weavers say the company became more aggressive after its design became fashionable with the youth market. In the past 12 months alone the fashion company has launched more than 250 purges on UK retailers in an attempt to protect its tan, black, red and white plaid.

Burberry's trademark cover expires next year, and many in the tartan industry believe it should not be renewed because of the existence of the Camel Thomson design.

The industry also believes that since the Camel Thomson design was based on the MacTavish tartan of 1906, Burberry has no legal right to stop production as its design was not created until 1924.

"We are supposed to be the industry body but we don't have the resources to fight a challenge from Burberry," said Wilton. "But I do believe that we have a very good case."

Burberry first found fame when Humphrey Bogart wore its waterproof gabardine mac in Casablanca. The trademark check did not appear until the 1924 when it was used as a lining to the trenchcoat.

Although the check became a fashion item itself in the 1960s when it was used on umbrellas, luggage and scarves, the firm became burdened by an old-fashioned image.

The company was in decline until 1997 when US businesswoman Rose Marie Bravo was hired as chief executive and a range of new products and a high-profile advertising campaign starring supermodel Kate Moss was launched.


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