The Royal British Legion has been accused of “bullying” after threatening a lorry driver whose “Poppy Truck” has gained a national following and earned thousands for the charity, with legal action.
Christine Langham spent £15,000 doing up her DAF truck which is decorated with First and Second World War images, as well as scenes of wild poppies, and draped with a Union Jack.
Since last September she has appeared at a number of Royal British Legion events, as well as Poppy Appeal launches in East Kirkby and Boston Market in Lincolnshire, using the truck as a crowd puller, with donations going into RBL buckets.
Earlier this year she trademarked “Poppy Truck and Team Poppy” to prevent “unscrupulous” businesses taking advantage. Then out of the blue last week the Legion contacted her asking her to give up her trademark because it would “potentially damage” its brand, and threatening action if she does not.
The RBL said it “would take formal action to oppose your trademark if we cannot amicably agree for its withdrawal.”
On Sunday she was banned from appearing at a Poppies on the Prom event at Mablethorpe.
The Poppy Truck has been handsprayed with images from WW1 and WW2 as well as fields of wild poppies
Mrs Langham, from Sunk Island in Holderness, intends fighting her corner: “I’m just there as a support vehicle, there to raise the profile, so it generates more funding.
“People come over and have a look at the truck as it’s big and bold, then they go and make a donation. I’ve done this as a way of saying thanks to all those who died. It is all out of my own pocket.
"It seems like bullying, because the truck is getting very popular."
The RBL also contacted Ben Lord, managing director of Speedbird Promotions, which is making scale models of the truck, suggesting he put production on hold, because of the potential legal ramifications of the case. But Mr Lord said legal action would “effectively see publicly-raised money being used in nonsensical legal action against an individual who has a track record of transparently benefitting not just the RBL but other forces-related charities.” He intends to go ahead with production and honour his pledge to make a contribution from each model sold to this year’s Poppy Appeal.
He added: “We firmly believe there is a huge opportunity for the RBL and the Poppy Truck to work together positively to the benefit of what remembrance stands for and would remind everyone concerned that this is where our focus, efforts and donations are best spent rather than lining the pockets of lawyers in unnecessary quarrelling.”
On the Intellectual Property Office website there are hundreds of registered trademarks containing the word Poppy - including Poppy Delevingne, Poppy Travel, and From Up On Poppy Hill. Only a handful are held by the Royal British Legion.
Followers of The Poppy Truck on Facebook have also been staunchly in support. Some have appealed to the RBL to rethink. Craig Todd said: “The truck is a symbol that gets people talking about a topic that should never be forgotten as those who have died for us should never be forgotten. The RBL should be utterly ashamed of themselves for what they are doing.”
A spokesman for The Royal British Legion said with regards to charitable activities the word “Poppy” is “exclusively associated with the RBL as a registered charity supporting the Armed Forces .”
He added: “If people donate to organisations using the word “Poppy”, they need to have confidence that the money is going directly to a registered charity.”
The RBL had not been made aware of Mrs Langham’s registration earlier in the year.
He said: “We would be concerned if the public were misled into believing that a trade mark owner not operating under the remit of the RBL was in some way formally connected with it.
"We are always grateful for people raising money on our behalf, however we must operate within legal guidelines and uphold our responsibilities to our beneficiaries and the general public."