WHEN it comes to building a successful business having a strong, instantly recognisable brand is the “Holy Grail” and business owners will fight hard to protect it. However, there is a fine balance between the dutiful enforcement of IP rights, and (what some might perceive as) an over-zealous brand trying to bully the little guy.

A recent news story has highlighted the different approaches which right holders take when it comes to brand protection. Mr Jel Singh Nagra, based in North Tyneside, owns a small convenience store which he named “Singhsburys” – a play on the nationwide store Sainsbury’s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sainsbury’s did not see the funny side and after threatening to sue for IP infringement, Mr Nagra removed the “Singhsbury’s” sign, not wanting to get into a legal fight and the shop remained nameless for five years.

But Mr Nagra has now taken another stab at an eye-catching name, with the premises now known as “Morrisinghs” - you can probably see where this is going.

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So how did Morrisons react? Instead of threatening legal action Morrisons said: “Mr Nagra and his customers obviously have good taste so we wish him well.” The different reaction between these two retailers’ highlights the varying approaches rights holders can adopt when it comes to enforcement.

In deciding how to respond, Morrison’s undoubtedly considered the reaction that their competitor Sainsbury’s received after threatening legal action against Mr Nagra. From a PR perspective, Sainsbury’s have been portrayed as the big bad giant who rained on Mr Nagra’s parade when he came up with a witty name. A modern David and Goliath story where the shop owner is unlikely to have the funds to take on such a vast entity. Sainsbury’s understandably took the view that having invested heavily in developing its brand a third party should not be allowed to benefit from it.

Morrisons’ response on the other hand may have seemed to some as more proportionate. The likelihood of this small corner shop having an effect on this national supermarket seems exceptionally slim. In wishing Mr Nagra well, Morrisons is seen as having a sense of humour and allowing the shop owner to enjoy his moment in the sun and the benefits that it may bring to his local business. At the same time, it did no harm that all articles surrounding Morrisons approach referenced Sainsbury’s previous actions in less than favourable terms. Cynics might well question if Morrisons would have taken the same approach had Mr Nagra not already been in dispute with Sainsbury’s.

The PR side of IP enforcement is something we are seeing more and more. Earlier this year, the largest professional house-buying franchise in the US, HomeVesters of America, issued a press release highlighting the range of legal actions it initiated in 2016 and pointed to its growing reputation for aggressive trade mark enforcement. The “aggressive” tag is one that many brands are keen to avoid, and would point to the negative PR Sainsbury’s received following the dispute with Mr Nagra, as the reason why.

Others would ask what is the point of taking IP enforcement action if you don’t tell anyone about it? For those organisations the Scottish IP Court offers a ready-made solution. In Scotland, as part of proceedings raised in the IP Court, successful right holders can ask the court to issue an order allowing them to advertise that a final court judgment has been issued and that its IP has been infringed. And the best part? The infringing company has to pay for the cost of the adverts!

There will never be a “one size fits all” solution to these issues but if a company wants to shout about enforcing their IP rights, then the Scottish IP Court might just be the place to do it.

Megan Briggs is a senior solicitor at law firm Burness Paull