James Cochran, star of BBC’s Great British Menu, is in a bitter trademark battle with his former restaurant. Cochran left the restaurant in London earlier this year but the company who ran it, Rayeula, has continued to trade under the name, which they trademarked.

Cochran argues that consumer confusion will take place by customers believing food is cooked by him when he has nothing to do with the restaurant.

He tweeted: “Anyone wanna buy me? My ex-employers are the lowest of low trying to sell off my name as recipes plans??!! Wtf?? Who is going to pay £25 a week just to add my name in front of the recipe?? I will give you the recipes for free if you’re that low!!”

The owners of the James Cochran brand said they had trademarked his name long ago, before he left the company, and that it was well before he secured his appearance on the Great British Menu.

They added: “Along with a broad range of misconceptions being repeated in the public domain—such as the factually incorrect statement that James Cochran the chef is disallowed from using his own name—the owners of the James Cochran trademark are disappointed that no one has reported that not only have they attempted to negotiate with James at various points regarding his acquiring ownership of the trademark, but they remain open to negotiation.

“To date Mr James Cochran’s only offer to acquire the trademark was for a sum less than it cost to complete trademarking. This is perhaps ironic given that part of Mr. Cochran’s histrionic rhetoric in the public domain focuses on baseless accusations that the owners are reaping the financial benefits of this valuable trademark. The owners of the trademark remain entirely open to reasonable offers from James that allow them to recoup their investment in the brand.”

We spoke with Andy King, member of the trade mark team and partner at IP law firm Mewburn Ellis, who had the following to say on the matter:

“Stories about disputes over the ownership of trade marks are a recurring theme, but particularly when celebrities are involved and there are changing relationships with former business partners. We saw another example only very recently with Roger Federer’s clash with former sponsor Nike over the ownership of his RF logo. The situation faced by Mr Cochran is also reminiscent of some leading trade mark case law concerning fashion designers, notably Elizabeth Emanuel and Karen Millen, who were prevented from using their own names when starting new ventures having sold their previous businesses. All of these issues really serve to underline the importance of having a clear contract or agreement in place between the parties that explicitly covers the position about the ownership of rights and what happens in such an eventuality as has occurred with Mr Cochran’s mark.

 

“In this instance, the dispute appears to be further muddied by the fact that the two UK trade mark registrations that appear to be at issue, one for the name ‘JAMES COCHRAN’ and the other for what appears to be a stylised depiction of Mr Cochran’s face, are jointly owned by three individuals rather than by the company Rayuela Ltd. As such, Rayuela’s apparent claim to own the trade marks would not therefore strictly seem to be true..

 

“There would however seem to be some truth in Rayuela’s claims that ‘The trademarking of the James Cochran brand is not a recent, reactive decision’, since the UK trade mark applications were submitted some time ago, back in December 2017. It is uncertain if the relationship with Mr Cochran was still cordial at that time, but, if so, then Rayuela’s actions may not have been in bad faith at that time.

 

“There may also be further issues relating to the ownership of the copyright in the stylised depiction of Mr Cochran’s face to be queried, as distinct from the ownership of the trade mark rights.”

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