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Trelise backs down in Cooper battle

Published: 3:01PM Tuesday July 03, 2007 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

A long running, high profile spat between two New Zealand fashion designers has reached an out of court settlement.

Fashion designer Trelise Cooper sued Arrowtown-based accessories maker Tamsin Cooper for breach of copyright after she tried to register her two-year-old label, Tamsin Cooper, in 2005. Trelise Cooper argued that the name was too close to her brand and would cause confusion in the competitive industry.

Trelise Cooper also said the logos and products were too similar.

"I think I owe it to those people, especially the customers, who think they're buying a Trelise Cooper that they actually are," she said last year.

Tamsin Cooper maintained that she was not trying to deceive the public, and as the brand is her own name, she should be able to continue using it.

Now, Trelise Cooper has had a change of heart and has withdrawn all legal proceedings.

"I just didn't want a whole year filled with my energy and focus going into this when it could be (going) into something that's really great," says Trelise.

Tamsin Cooper is rapt with the decision.

"I'm incredibly delighted that the action's been dropped. It's really exciting that I can continue trading with my own name," she says.

Tamsin Cooper's lawyer Garry Williams says Trelise Cooper's decision to withdraw her High Court claim does not surprise him. He says they always thought the merits of the case lay with his client.

The Trelise Cooper empire is worth millions compared with Tamsin Cooper's relatively small Central Otago business.

"I instigated this and I'm really happy that I did," says Trelise.

Trademark spats are relatively unusual in New Zealand and only 2% of registered trademarks are challenged. Only a small portion of those actually reach court.

Trademark battle timeline

November 2005 - Auckland designer Trelise Cooper opposes an Intellectual Property Office decision to allow Tamsin Cooper to register her name as a brand and threatens legal action. Trelise said she acted after comparing Tamsin Cooper's website and logos with her own. She said there had been confusion over the two labels in shops which stock them and any other designer in her position would have done the same thing.

December 2005 - Arrowtown-based Tamsin Cooper says she will fight back. Tamsin says her accessories cater to a different market that Trelise's fashion label.

Arrowtown business owners put their support behind local designer Tamsin with many re-naming their businesses by adding the word Cooper to their signage.

January 2006 - Tamsin Cooper lodges a counter statement with the Intellectual Property Office, after Trelise Cooper opposes her attempts to register her label.

October 2006 - The two sides go to mediation. Trelise Cooper appears on Close Up to discuss the case, but Tamsin declines to appear as the case is before the courts.

July 2007 - Trelise Cooper withdraws her breach of copyright case against Tamsin, meaning all opposition to her trademarking her name has been drooped.