- By Oliver Smith
- Business Journalist, BBC News
Marks and Spencer has withdrawn a t-shirt from sale after a London pub chain accused it of ‘ripping off’ its brand name.
The T-shirt had the “Craft Beer Co.” name in graphic on front and back.
M&S said it takes “intellectual property very seriously” and added that its design was “in good faith”.
The pub chain had tweeted the retailer on Thursday, writing, “What’s the idea with these T-shirts!?”
He continued, “Can we expect a royalty check in the mail!?
“Certainly one iconic British institution shouldn’t rip off another….!!”
In another tweet, the company said: “It’s really hard to believe that in 2023 such things can be approved by someone from a huge PLC.”
After being approached for comment, M&S said it had made the decision to remove the product from sale “so that we can investigate further”.
In a description of the T-shirt on its website, M&S said “St Michael’s Brewery themed graphics on the back and chest add a distinctive theme”.
The Craft Beer Co. was set up in Clerkenwell in 2011 by friends Martin Hayes and Peter Slezak, and now operates seven pubs in London and one in Brighton.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hayes said he was alerted by the T-shirt when a punter mentioned it to one of his bar staff on Wednesday.
“I’m not mad about it, but it’s kind of annoying,” he said.
“I have a lot of respect for M&S. They’re an iconic British company and I think somebody just did a bit of boo boo really, but I’m sure it’ll sort itself out,” he said. added.
Mr Hayes said his company was not considering taking legal action.
“We’re a relatively small company so I don’t think we’ll take a PLC. It’s not Aldi versus Marks and Spencer,” he said.
In 2021, M&S took legal action against supermarket rival Aldi, arguing that the latter’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake had infringed on its Colin the Caterpillar trademark.
Marks and Spencer claimed at the time that Aldi’s cake was ‘in line’ with its reputation and filed an intellectual property complaint with the High Court.
On Thursday night, Aldi tweeted in response to this story: “OH HOW THE TABLES HAVE TURNED.”
End of Twitter content, 1
Mr Hayes said he was pretty sure M&S would retire the T-shirt anyway, calling some of the language used in the graphic sexist.
One of the lines reads: “Good good beer…for good good guys”, which received an angry response on Twitter.
“So only ‘real guys’ can enjoy beer? It’s 2023!” one says.
“It’s really awful wording, very sexist,” Mr. Hayes said. “It’s hard to believe something like this could be put on a T-shirt these days.
“Our pubs are very inclusive. We’ve always stood for beer, and it’s for everyone.
“I can see online that a lot of people are upset about it, and I feel bad about it. I think it reflects really badly on M&S.”
Mr Hayes said one of their pubs was located very close to M&S headquarters in Paddington, central London, and said a team from the company had a booking for that evening.
“I don’t know if they will come now, but if they come they can rest assured that they will be treated as well as usual,” he said.
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