German fashion giant Hugo Boss has dropped its trademark lawsuit with an artist over his use of the word “boss” in his clothing range. The famed luxury fashion brand has reached a settlement with John Charles, from Merseyside, who is selling ‘Boss’ branded merchandise as a spin-off from online art lessons he started during the first lockdown. Fans of the art classes will recognise his slogan ‘Be boss, be kind’, which he ends each lesson with. The word “boss” is Liverpool slang for great.
The Father-of-one was hit with a letter threatening legal action from Simmons & Simmons, who represent the luxury fashion brand, after he applied to trademark his ‘Be Boss, Be Kind’ for clothing and hat designs. The letter stated that Hugo Boss had built up substantial and valuable goodwill in the United Kingdom in connection with the word ‘BOSS’ and that consumers may be deceived into believing that Charles’ products were associated with Hugo Boss and thus damage its goodwill.
It’s not the first time Hugo Boss have been accused of being heavy handed when it comes to trademark protection. Back in 2018 the company sent a cease and desist letter to Welsh Craft Brewery Boss Brewing after it attempted to trademark its name in a move that was widely seen as without any legal merit. The purpose of trademarks is to identify the source of a product – would anyone, anywhere have really believed the craft beer came from the German fashion house? A compromise was eventually reached, whereby Boss Brewing agreed to change the name of two of its beers. Boss Black, a 5% ABV stout, became Boss Brewing Black, and Boss Boss, a 7.4% ABV double IPA, became Boss Bossy . They also agree not to produce any Boss branded clothing. The legal action is reported to have cost Boss Brewing almost £10,000 in legal fees. In 2018, the i paper reported that a charity called DarkGirlBoss received a legal letter from Hugo Boss when it tried to trademark the name. In March this year, the brand hit the news again when British comedian Joe Lycett officially changed his name by deed poll to Hugo Boss as an act of solidarity with small businesses and charities who have been sent similar letters by the fashion brand
John Charles has now reached an ‘amicable solution’ with Hugo Boss and the artist will continue with his online art classes and to produce merchandise using the word ‘boss.’ Details of the agreement are, as yet, unknown.