The "bazaar" tale of "tartan tat"

The Scottish Courts website hasn't yet posted the decision, but The Scotsman reports on a decision of the Court of Session, Edinburgh, with regard to allegedly inauthentic Isle of Skye tartan [thanks, Thorsten Lauterbach, for this lead]. This episode was sparked off by a raid on a warehouse in Fife which revealed hundreds of metres of the suspicious cloth. According to the newspaper,
"Lady Dorrian granted an interim interdict to Rosemary Samios, who holds copyright in the Isle of Skye tartan, against Gold Brothers, banning the firm from making, marketing, importing or exporting goods made in the design. The firm is operated by Surinder, Galab and Dildar Singh, of Edinburgh. ...

Lawyers for Mrs Samios, who is also claiming £150,000 damages, said she was tipped off that wool scarves in the Isle of Skye design and described as "Skye Isles" tartan were being sold in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, by Gold Brothers.

... Inquiries had established that Gold Brothers was also selling "Skye Isles" and "Bright Skye" scarves, rugs, kilts and hats.

It was alleged the firm had imported from China substantial amounts of cloth in the Isle of Tartan design, and Mrs Samios complained of serious damage to the reputation of the genuine tartan by "its application to cheap products of inferior design, quality and materials".

... Both the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses have urged the city council to intervene over the "tartan tat" shops on the Royal Mile.

The strongest critics include the Scottish Tartan Authority, which claims the Royal Mile looks "like an Eastern bazaar"."
Since acquiring the rights to the tartan in 1992, Mrs Samios had enjoyed "considerable commercial success" granting licences at an initial £12,000 plus a 10% royalty on sales. Owners of rights in tartans are nursing some hostility towards the "tartan tat" element, accusing them of "cultural rape".

Says the IPKat, the Scottish Register of Tartans Bill, due to be discussed this coming September, will provide an extra level of subject-specific protection, but in the meantime the existing IP rights -- with their various defences and pecularities -- will just have to do. Merpel adds, there seems to be an undertone of anti-Indian hostility in all of this, since Indian entrepreneurs have thrived in the "tartan tat" sector. Let's hope that this is not so and that, either as licensees of legitimate products or as innovators of new tartan designs, the Indians will make a valuable contribution to the commercial welfare of the Scottish economy.

Scottish tartans here
Indian tartans here
The "bazaar" tale of "tartan tat" The "bazaar" tale of "tartan tat" Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, July 04, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. And of course the bill is very carefully worded to provide only a register. It will not create any IP rights because IP is a "reserved matter" to the Westminster parliament and not devolved to the Scottish Parliament... unless they push their luck

  2. Well, speaking of sui generis stuff, the USA is trying to add fashion designs to vessel hulls and semiconductor chips.

    Canada, of course, is hard to outdo on the front of special protection mechanisms. We still have a "Timber Marking Act" on the books. This gives a flavour:

    Registered marks required

    3. Every person engaged in the business of lumbering or getting out timber, and floating or rafting timber on the inland waters of Canada within the Provinces of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, shall, within one month after he engages therein, select a mark or marks and cause such mark or marks to be registered in the manner provided in this Act.

    R.S., c. T-8, s. 3.

    Registering marks

    4. (1) The Minister shall keep a book to be called the Timber Mark Register, in which any person engaged in the business of lumbering or getting out timber may have his timber mark registered on depositing with the Minister a drawing or an impression and description in duplicate of the timber mark, together with a declaration that the timber mark is not and was not in use, to his knowledge, by any person other than himself at the time of his adoption thereof.

    I must say that there doesn't seem to be much in the way work for IP lawyers under this Act. I will confess that I've never registered a single timber mark.



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