27 April 2018 Courier Weekly

Cactus boutique and tattoo parlour fight over name

PLUS: Rana Plaza – Coconut water – WeWork’s debt offer – Travel blogs

Who owns the word ‘prick’?

London tattoo artist ‘Henry Hate’ – real name Henry Martinez – took a cactus shop to court over its use of the word ‘prick’. The judgement, released this month, did not rule in his favour.

Martinez, who has tattooed the likes of Amy Winehouse, Alexander McQueen and Pete Doherty, claimed the Prick cactus shop in Dalston was causing confusion amongst customers looking for his Prick Tattoos studio, based near Old Street.

Both businesses had registered trademarks for the word ‘Prick’ – the cactus shop in March 2016, and the tattoo parlour in August 2016.

The court case contains many lessons on how to defend a trademark and the importance of credible evidence to back it up.

The full report is a fascinating read. Some highlights:

  • The tattoo parlour’s reliance on its founder’s personal brand made its claim to the ‘Prick’ name weaker. For example, the studio’s website and emails are directed to ‘henryhate.com’.
  • The cactus shop was not masquerading as a tattoo parlour, so the judge said a claim of ‘misrepresentation’ – where customers were deceived into buying cactuses when they really wanted to be a customer of the tattoo parlour – would not apply.
  • Gynelle Leon, who owns the Prick cactus shop, was asked why she didn’t just google the name before setting up. Her response? ‘Because it would have shown me porn and penises.’

Sustainable fashion is kicking off.

Fashion Revolution Week is taking place to mark the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh. Its aim is to encourage consumers to find out who makes their clothes and under what circumstances.

The fashion sector’s supply chain is notoriously opaque, with many brands struggling to track their own products’ journeys. Technology offers some solutions: Segura, a London-based startup, provides retailers with software for supply chain tracking and ordering, and flags gaps in the chain suggesting unauthorised partners are being used.

Increasingly, transparency is becoming a core factor in the success of new brands. US-based clothing brand Everlane has shared glossy images of the factories it uses. Stockholm-based menswear brand Asket has gone one step further; it’s replacing ‘Made In’ labels with new tags which list every stage in an item’s production.

Meanwhile, London-based ethical womenswear brand Birdsong has drawn up a list of books, podcasts and films which unearth fashion’s dark side.

End of the coconut water craze?

Consumers are finally over coconut water. The Grocer reports that sales have fallen 12.2% to £37m in the past year.

Category leader Vita Coco’s sales were down 16% year-on-year. Competitors Innocent and Naked have experienced larger sales slumps of 24.3% and 38.9%, respectively.

Arthur Gallego, Vita Coco’s corporate communications director, said he viewed the dip in coconut water sales as a ‘hiccup’.

Nevertheless, the brand has been adding to its product range. In the UK, Vita Coco sells coconut oil and coconut ‘milk’. Next month, the company will launch sparkling coconut water in the US, hoping to tap into consumer demand for healthier fizzy drinks.

WeWork’s sensational bond offering.

Co-working juggernaut WeWork raised over £500m in a debt bond offering on Wednesday, luring investors with potential returns of around 8%.

The decision to sell debt is curious for an asset-light company such as WeWork. Despite being in the business of renting out property, it leases the majority of its spaces.

It’s also yet to turn a profit. The eight-year-old company reported net losses of £654m in 2017. Each of WeWork’s 208,000 desks brings in on average £3,000 for the company each year (taking empty desks into account). Its buildings are at around 81% occupancy, meaning each site, in theory, is profitable. But it has been haemorrhaging cash in order to add new sites and grow its membership base.

Many pundits have concerns over WeWork’s model. One question is over what would happen to the business in hard times – WeWork is tied into many of its leases for long periods, while memberships can be cancelled at a month’s notice.

The race to own the business of travel.

Culture Trip, a travel blog founded in 2011, has raised £60m to expand into travel bookings. It follows other digital media brands, such as sneaker blog Highsnobiety, to have raised money and started hawking products.

Combining inspirational content with easy booking facilities is a dream many travel companies seem to be chasing. Big companies do the functional side of the process well, yet struggle to produce authentic and interesting content (Skyscanner’s city breaks page is a case in point).

We previously reported on several interesting startups in the travel space.

This article was amended on 8 May 2018 to reflect trademarks that had been registered for the word ‘Prick’.