A story about copyright… and a 'proper' brand.

I thought I would share this little story about copyright, because it’s a really important topic.
I created this piece of artwork following a fantastic swim with the Dales Dippers in Yorkshire. The inspiration came from the fact the beautiful peaty water is the colour of black tea, and these wonderful chaps who are big fans of the ‘proper cuppa’, even wear swimming shorts made from the company’s own tea towels. And they really do drink the stuff while swimming too…
Anyway, having sold a few prints, I suddenly thought to myself, I wonder if Yorkshire Tea are ok with me doing this. Now, I know quite a bit about intellectual property as I spent most of my career designing branding for commercial clients, so I thought, I’m not actually using their branding, I've just drawn it in an 'if you didn't know, you wouldn't be able to read it' kind of way, so I thought it should be ok.
But, to be on the safe side, I got in touch with my IP lawyer to take her advice. She looked into it for me, and though she couldn’t find any case law about representation of a brand in art, she did find that Taylors of Harrogate who own the Yorkshire Tea brand have their trademark proper sewn up. They have even protected the words. So, she advised me I had two courses of action: 1. Stop using it – rename the piece and remove the branding, or 2. Ask Taylors for permission.
So, of course I took option 2. I found out who to contact, told them the story and asked kindly for their permission. They got back to me saying that although they thought the artwork was lovely, they couldn’t allow me to do it. They explained that there is a lot of folk ripping them off, so they just have a blanket policy.
Of course I was disappointed, but I totally get it. I know how I would feel if someone used any of my artwork without my permission (they would be getting a letter from my excellent IP lawyer, lol). So I resorted to option 1. I’ve had it reprinted without the branding, and I’ve renamed it ‘Dales Brew’, all with the blessing of Taylors. It’s now available again in my online shop.
Oh, and the lovely folk at Taylors kindly restocked my cupboard for me too. So all is not lost in the end. 😀
Should you wish to adorn your walls with a print to admire while you take a tea break, you can find it here.

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