Nicky Fletcher from Equisafety Ltd, has won a passing off and trademark Infringement case against Battle, Hayward & Bower Limited t/a Battles (Hy-Equestrian), a multi-million pound manufacturer and distributor of equestrian products based in Lincolnshire.
In a David and Goliath case, Nicky was able to convince the court that Battles had infringed the “Mercury mark” that has been endorsed by World and Olympic champion, Charlotte Dujardin.
Equisafety creates new exclusive, performance high visibility designs, works closely with the manufactures, for high quality and sells through their own web site, shows and traders. Equisafety is passionate about promote the safety of horses and their riders, by making designs customers want to wear. Many designs don’t even look like a safety items, more like high fashion. Equisafety is the famous for the POLITE range, worn by thousands of riders.
In 2015, Equisafety began promoting and selling its brand new Mercury range, starting with the now infamous ‘Mercury Jacket’ and later expanding the range to include leg boots and rugs.
The Real Mercury Range.
On the 12th June 2019, Equisafety became aware that Battle, a competitor of Equisafety, was taking unfair advantage of the reputation Equisafety had worked hard to build by was using the name ‘mercury’ to market identical goods to its customers. As this was likely to cause confusion, Equisafety sent a cease and desist letter to Battles. In response, rather than stopping the sale of its infringing products, Battle increased its product range and blocked her emails, leaving Equisafety with no alternative but to take legal action so as to protect its intellectual property rights after months of trying to stop Battles through their Solicitors.
Equisafety had applied for the Mercury name to be trademarked, which Battles tried to stop. The Intellectual Property Office disagreed with Battles and Equisafety was given the trademark.
Equisafety started court proceedings at the end of October 2019 and Battles continued to sell the fake Mercury products on their web site “Hy-Equestrian” till around mid November 2019. There were a large amount of Battles trader customers unknowingly selling the fake Mercury range, unaware of the court case that had started well over a year before. Equisafety knew these were innocent traders, unknowingly selling infringed goods and it was Battles who should be held accountable.
Following a Trial in the High Court in October 2021, a judgment was handed down that Battles activities did constitute passing off as Equisafety and that it had infringed Equisafety’s Mercury trademark.
Nicky comments “We spent a lot of time and money developing and researching the Mercury range and we weren’t going to stand by and watch a larger competitor benefit from our ideas unchallenged. I am a passionate believer in the value of design, and this is a lesson to all small businesses like us to protect themselves and ensure they use good advisors to help protect them. I am sick of equestrian companies copying each other, at the moment the market seems to be full of copy cats and it really annoys me. It’s a cheap way of making a quick buck, but all it does it ruin the progression of the equestrian market and I will never stand by and let anyone copy anything of mine. It has been a stressful time for all in the business but now we have won we plan to push forward by investing in expanding the team and developing more innovative products.
Claire McDonnell, Senior Associate in the Litigation team at Bermans, who acted for Nicky says: “This is a fantastic result for Equisafety and sends out an important message to other SMEs to not be afraid to take on larger companies who are riding on the coat-tails of a trademark you have spent time and money promoting. Intellectual property rights are valuable assets of your business and it is important that you take steps to protect them. You can do this by registering your rights and ensuring that anyone infringing those rights is stopped as soon as possible. Intellectual property can be a complex area of law and so I highly recommend that businesses take legal advice regarding their rights at the outset.”
Equisafety was founded in 2001. The company started in Nicky’s spare bedroom and grew into the World’s largest most respected, equine high vis specialist. She was Head Designer for a multi million pound Workwear clothing company and noticed a gap in the technical performance of equestrian high viz sportswear and she used her MA qualifications in design to produce bespoke ranges.
The company designs and makes clothing and accessories for the Police, equestrian, cycling, motorbike and canine markets and has ambitious plans to develop new brands in 2022. Nicky has recently secured a contract with UVEX in Germany for the international rights in the UK, USA and Australia for their Tocson, helmet protection. This provides a button that activates an emergency signal (text messages to emergency services and loved ones) should a rider fall after 30 seconds if not deactivated. She is also launching a brand-new web site, that will be the largest Equine Safety web site, stocking everything safety, from Back protectors, to safety stirrups. Equisafety.com is going BIG!
To read the full Judgment, please follow this link - Equisafety Ltd v Battle, Hayward And Bower, Ltd & Anor  EWHC 3296 ((08 December 2021)) OPUS IP Patent Agents/Attorneys Manchester Stockport North-west UK