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from the bullies at Burberry – a big fat “no.” January 29, 2007

Posted by Crystal in fabric.

In the past couple of months, I’ve received a number of requests for scooter seat covers made out of Burberry or “Burberry-like” Nova plaid fabric. After searching high and low for fabric that would work (most actual Burberry fabric is too light for use as a seat cover), and even finding some awesome fleece that was a very close match, I ended up with a some bad news:

It’s a big fat “no.”

During my search, I found a web site that made little dog coats of genuine Burberry fabric. I wrote to the owner, asking her where she found it. She wrote this back to me:

Good Morning!

I would love to help you but I received a very nasty letter from Burberry International telling me that it is illegal to use their fabric including the fake fabric that is made right here in the USA.

I could not believe it as I see Burberry type fabrics at every department store I go to in [my city] and other places that I visit.

They requested that I stop and also send them all the fabric I had. Quite stern about it. I had been buying the real fabric from a source in England but they were also closed down and my source in Florida also was warned with the exact letter about using or selling the fabric.

Good luck in your search.

Further research showed that she was not alone – besides her supplier, other small companies were threatened with stern warnings to cease and desist from using Burberry or Burberry like fabrics or producting “Burberry-inspired” items. It even appears that some companies have been forced out of business, and designers have been forced to change their lines.

Now, I’m all about protecting copyright. I’ve been a writer and a designer for a long time, and I work hard to create what I do. I’d be sorely ticked off if someone stole my content, my copyrighted designs or my trademark, and have gone after people who have tried (many thanks to the scooter community, who often lets me know if someone out there has used one of my images, etc!). So, in essence, I don’t have a problem with them not wanting people to make products that could be dubbed a Burberry rip-off.

But it does piss me off that Burberry is apparently – for lack of a better phrase – suing history for trademark infringement. I’ve read in a number of places that traditional tartan producers have been forced to stop making a traditional, historical tartan plaid that is very similar to the Burberry plaid called Camel Thompson. The Camel Thompson has been around a lot longer than Burberry’s Nova check, but because Burberry threatened many of the kilt makers and tartan fabric producers, most have stopped making it.

The exceptions to their threats seem to be department store or mass-produced knockoffs or “Burberry-inspired” items. But then, the big department stores may be the only ones with more money than Burberry, so they can handle a lawsuit. The one with the most money (and Kate Moss) wins.

When it comes down to it, even if I were able to get it here or there, I can’t make anything from it. I wouldn’t be that keen on losing my business because I made a scooter seat cover out of a plaid that could be remotely seen as Burberryesque.

So I’ve had to tell customers a big fat “no.”

It’s just as well. With the its latest controversy, Burberry may be on the way out of fashion, anyway. And if it’s plaid you want, there are a lot more choices out there. Just give me a shout and we’ll find something.


1. raincoaster - January 29, 2007

Oh yeah, Burberry is very three-years-ago. But it’s a sad, nasty, grabby thing they’re doing. Did they not even offer a licensing arrangement?

And yes, Camel Thompson is a VERY old tartan, predating the Burberry check and even the trademark and copyright laws that Burberry is using as a cudgel.

2. Devo sues McDonalds « Andy on the Road - June 25, 2008

[…] plaid, who often pressure those who try and use similar patterns. A poke around the internets found a seat-cover maker who has run into Burberry a few times, and gives some excellent background on the various lawsuits […]

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