This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. A large print version is available.
This leaflet is aimed at persons involved in the sale or distribution of textile products bearing pictorial representations of cartoon, television, film or book characters and logos or other devices associated with them. In particular this may be of interest to market traders in view of their ready access to the items in question.
Examples of such products include clothing, footwear, curtain and bedding accessories, towelling and other similar items. Examples of the subject matter include The Simpsons, Postman Pat, Thomas The Tank Engine and Pokemon together with the more traditional Disney and Warner Bros cartoon characters. The range is large and ever increasing and therefore no attempt is made to list them all here.
It is important to note however that the popularity of such characters will invariably mean that they have been the subject of trade mark registration. This could be as a depiction of the character itself, a name, a commonly used expression or saying, and/or a logo or device associated with that character. The effect on you is that such products can only be sold with the authorisation of the trade mark proprietor (e.g. Walt Disney, Warner Bros, BBC Worldwide etc).
Such authorised product can normally be recognised by the labelling and packaging which accompanies it. Likewise unauthorised product is not difficult to spot. In many cases the material or construction is of poor quality with no indication from the packaging that it is the genuine item. It is frequently the case with such products that the garments themselves are of common design or construction the only noticeable difference being the character, logo or other device appearing on it. In many cases there is an absence of washing instructions and/or textile fibre content.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the goods you sell comply with all legislative requirements. The Trade Marks Act 1994 makes it an offence to sell or offer to supply any goods bearing a mark or logo identical to or likely to be mistaken for a registered trade mark, unless the owner of the trade mark has given permission for it to be used on the goods in question.
Disclaimer notices such as "Reproduction/Fake/Brand Copy" do not offer any protection, and goods offered for sale in contravention of this legislation are likely to be seized with a view to the institution of legal proceedings and/or the application to the Courts for forfeiture of the items.
Trading Standards Authorities have a duty to enforce this legislation and take active steps to do so which when working with the Police may include the arrest of persons for Trade Mark Act offences. The Courts can impose severe penalties upon conviction of unlimited fines and/or up to ten years' imprisonment together with forfeiture of any seized items and associated equipment.
Whilst this leaflet is primarily aimed at the sale or distribution of textile products it is also relevant to any product having a trade mark registration such as sports equipment, perfumes, motor accessories etc. Again the range is both large and ever increasing.
If you are considering dealing in products which may be covered by the Trade Marks Act 1994 you are urged to carefully examine such products prior to purchase, to seek evidence of authenticity and if necessary to seek legal advice.
Copies of the Act can be obtained from H.M.S.O. ISBN No 0-11-542694-6
Trade Marks Act 1994 30kb
Reviewed November 2010
B/bus/032/002 June 2000