That’s My Name, Don’t Wear it Out!

The recent announcement that leading Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill has separated from the label that bears her name (while seeking to continue to work in the fashion industry), is yet another recent example of a ‘name’ and a company parting ways. Another example of ‘brand separation’ that has received a lot of media attention in recent times is the dispute between former racing car driver and tyre salesman Bob Jane, and the company that bears his name, Bob Jane T-Marts. The most recent instalment of this dispute is in a decision of the Federal Court of Australia which was handed down on 26 November 2013.

It is relatively common for companies to use the name of their founder as their brand name (the likes of Louis Vuitton and Paul Smith in the fashion industry being other well known examples). Taking this approach allows the company to benefit from any brand cachet the founder has already built up in their name, and for their future successes and brand awareness to be intertwined.

However, the recent Alannah Hill and Bob Jane examples are a timely reminder to consider what happens to the brand when the ‘name’ and the company decide to separate. Companies, and the names that founded them, need to be mindful of potential intellectual property and trade practices issues that can arise when a ‘split’ (amicable or otherwise) occurs. Lessons can be learnt from previous examples, two of which we discuss below.

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