A small fashion company has won a tribunal against high-street giant Zara over claims it had an “identical brand”.
The retailer had threatened legal action against Darlington-based firm House of Zana.
Owner Amber Kotrri launched the clothing brand online in 2018, and opened her first store in Darlington a year later.
When she attempted to trademark the name House of Zana, she received a notice of opposition, followed by a letter from lawyers representing Zara saying the brand was “conceptually identical” to theirs, and “confusingly similar” for customers.
Mrs Kottri said she was urged to rename her business and remove all existing branding, but she refused to sign the agreement, saying there was “no risk of confusing us with Zara” and the change would “cause irreparable damage” to the business.
Now a tribunal judge has sided with Mrs Kottri and ruled that House of Zana can keep its name.
Judge Matthew Williams said: “I am satisfied that the differences between the marks … are sufficient to rule out the likelihood of direct confusion on the part of the average consumer.”
The tribunal judge added: “I accept that the choice of name is prompted by Ms Kotrri’s Albanian heritage and the idea of clothes manufactured with the magical delicacy of fairies, and I find no cynical motive in the use of the name.
“Even for those who, based on their perception of the similar component, call to mind the word ZARA, I am not satisfied that the mental link would be more than fleeting.”
Mrs Kottri told the PA news agency: “I’m so pleased. It literally does feel like a weight being lifted off your shoulders.
“I really believed I would win – that’s why I fought it so hard – but in the last bits of the court hearing when they were saying that if I lost I’d have to pay their fees, little bits of doubt can creep into your mind in the middle of the night.
“But I was confident that surely anyone can see they’re not similar.”
Ms Kottri added: “I feel like what I’ve won back is my time – it was so time-consuming thinking about it, planning for it.
“That’s time that can now go into growing the business.”
Zara had argued in their letter to Mrs Kottri there was a risk “consumers will misread, mishear, mispronounce and/or otherwise perceive House of Zana as Zara” and that the brand name “dilutes the distinctiveness and reputation of the Zara brand”.
Mrs Kotrri started the business while living with her husband in Albania, taking the name from the Albanian word for ‘fairy’.
She said in April: “Our name is very meaningful and personal to us and poses no commercial threat to Zara, and their massive market.”
A Zara spokesperson said: “While we do not wish comment on the judgment itself, we continue to wish Ms Kottri and her business success in the future.”