‘Score draw’ in Yorkshire brewers legal battle

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A High Court judge today declared a “score draw” after two “proud” and “entrenched” Yorkshire breweries fought a war of the rose.

Samuel Smith’s, which is more than 150 years old and based in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, claimed that the Cropton Brewery, which is less than 30 years old and based in Cropton, North Yorkshire, had infringed its registered trade mark rights by using a “stylised white rose design” on labels for two beers. Cropton’s disputed the claim.

Mr Justice Arnold ruled that Cropton’s had infringed Samuel Smith’s trade mark rights on labels for its Yorkshire Warrior beer but had not infringed its rival’s trade mark rights on labels for its Yorkshire Bitter.

The judge told lawyers, after a hearing at the High Court in London: “I think the overall result is fairly characterised as a score draw.”

He ordered Cropton’s not to use the white rose design on Warrior beer but made no order for payment of damages.

Lawyers said Cropton’s would give profits from the sale of Yorkshire Warrior - estimated to be more than £20,000 - to Samuel Smith’s and Samuel Smith’s would donate them to military charity Help for Heroes.

Mr Justice Arnold suggested that the dispute should not have come before the courts.

“The dispute is one which ought to have been capable of settlement out of court a long time ago,” he said.

“Instead it has grown into a case which is out of all proportion to what is at stake in commercial terms.

“One explanation for this is Yorkshire pride; but I fear the English legal system bears a measure of responsibility as well.”

He added: “The legal process appears to have caused the parties to become entrenched in their positions rather than seeking common ground.”

The judge said each brewery should pay its own legal costs.

Mr Justice Arnold said Samuel Smith registered the “stylised white rose” design as a trade mark after the logo was created by an advertising agency in the late 1960s.

The brewery thought that drinkers might think that Yorkshire Bitter and Yorkshire Warrior were made by Samuel Smith because of the roses on the labels.

Cropton’s launched Yorkshire Bitter in 2007 with a “stylised white rose emblem with red accents” on labels, said the judge.

The brewery launched Yorkshire Warrior the following year - donating profits to a military charity - using an image of the cap badge of The Yorkshire regiment, which contains a “stylised white rose”, on labels, the court heard.

Mr Justice Arnold said there were “differences” between the rose on Yorkshire Bitter labels and Samuel Smith’s trade-marked rose. He said he was “not persuaded” that there was a “likelihood of confusion”.

But he said the rose on Yorkshire Warrior labels was “more similar” and could cause confusion.

“In my view, the majority of consumers will not be confused,” said the judge.

“Overall, however, I am persuaded that there is a likelihood that some consumers will be confused into believing either that Yorkshire Warrior is a Samuel Smith product or that it has some connection with Samuel Smith.”

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