A small business owner, Amber Kotrri, who runs the House of Zana boutique in Darlington, has emerged victorious in a trademark dispute with the international fashion giant, Zara. The dispute centered on the allegation that Kotrri’s business was “conceptually identical” to Zara’s, with the latter arguing that there was a “high degree of visual and oral similarities” between the two brands. However, a tribunal ultimately found that the link between the two businesses was “too insubstantial.”
Kotrri, who represented herself at the tribunal, expressed her relief and happiness at the outcome of the case, which she described as “a genuine weight off my shoulders.” The case had lasted for over a year and had caused significant stress for Kotrri, who has three young children. In her own words, preparing the necessary documents and evidence had taken “hours and hours,” with her daughter’s due date coinciding with the time the last evidence was due.
In May, Kotrri had told the tribunal that there was “no likelihood” of customers confusing the two brands. Zara, however, had argued that the House of Zana trademark application should be refused as it was too similar in name to Zara’s, which could lead to customer confusion. Julia King, who represented Zara, argued that the name Zana was “one small brush mark” away from Zara’s and that the County Durham-based brand was “not distinctive and only descriptive.” King claimed that a crowded market full of brands that looked and sounded similar could pose a “serious threat” to Zara.
Read More: Zara designs a joint collection with this Danish high-end label
However, tribunal registrar Matthew Williams ruled that he was satisfied any “mental link” made by customers between House of Zana and Zara would be “too insubstantial and fleeting” to result in an “exploitation” of Zara’s reputation. He added that the two brands were “visually and aurally similar to a degree between low and medium.”
Mrs. Kotrri had named her company House of Zana after the Albanian word for “fairies.” She had been contacted by Zara’s lawyers last year after trying to trademark her brand. Kotrri claimed that she had been in contact with more than 10 other small business owners who had been contacted by Zara asking them to rebrand because of similarities with their names. She accused Zara of “very intimidating” conduct in its dealings with her.
Kotrri urged other small business owners in similar positions to “keep fighting” and “be brave.” She said they should ignore the “threatening way the legal letters are worded” and fight for their businesses, stating that “you know your business the most, you know the meaning behind any name, and if you’ve built it up then fight for it.”
Read More: Addameer, a human rights association, is urging the Palestinian government to take action
Inditex, the parent company of Zara, is one of the world’s largest fashion distribution groups, with 6,477 stores, including Bershka, Pull & Bear, and Massimo Dutti. A spokesperson for Zara declined to comment on the judgment but said the company “continues to wish” Kotrri and her business “success in the future.”