Risk and Glory

How I Fought A Fashion Goliath And Won

My name is Catherine Boakye and I am the founder of Mango tree Kids and in 2020 I found myself in a trademark battle with the retail fashion giant Mango. Nobody likes it when they are made to feel that you dont have the right to co-exist in the same space as others but this is exactly how I was made to feel.

For over 20 years I have ran my business Mangotree Kids providing beautiful quality products that help teach young black children about their culture; give them a greater sense of pride in themselves and for all children to love and respect different cultures through a range of multicultural toys and educational resources.

Mangotree Kids is not a big high street brand like Mango, but it has been a growing brand with a loyal customer base since 2001.

For many years as a single parent of two children, l had juggled raising my children with a demanding job at British Airways and running the business. Then in 2020 as the world was gripped by the pandemic. I accepted redundancy from BA and like thousands of people I had to reassess my life.

As crazy as it may sound, the imposed confinement of lockdown was a blessing in disguise as it forced me to focus entirely on the business;  with both children in university, I felt it was now time to invest everything, all my time and finances into growing Mangotree Kids.

A combination of events, such as George Floyd’s death and the Black Pound Movement, help created a conscious awakening within the black community with this saw a huge increase in the demand for my products along with the wider general public, schools, nurseries and hospitals.

With the growth in the brand, I took the decision to register Mangotree Kids as a trademark and it was at this point that

the inconceivable happened.

The process was halted by the retail giant Mango, who decided to contest the application, claiming that Mangotree Kids was too much like their Mango and mango kids, also that  I was building the brand off the back of their well established reputable brand and there would be a confusion in the minds of the average consumer between the brands.

I must confess initially I was incredibly intimidated and stressed by what I was facing and the financial burden was immense having to find thousands of pounds in legal fees. I couldn’t sleep worrying about how I was going to get through this, but at the same time I had to tell myself that this was wrong  after all Mangotree Kids had been established before Mango Kids. I  had no choice but to fight back. Their actions, although legal, were not in my opinion justified, I felt like David getting ready to battle Goliath.

 

I  tried to reach out to Mango through my lawyer, on several occasions, to come to an amicable agreement but they did not respond for over a year.In the meantime I had to spend valuable time away from running the business to build a case by gathering witness statements from customer and suppliers from the last 20 years.

In late 2021, Mango’s legal representative finally reached out to settle but their suggested terms were unacceptable it was my belief they wanted to stifle the growth of Mangotree Kids. I was left with no choice but to continue with the case to a public hearing.

On March 2 2022, the trademark case was heard it lasted nearly 4 hours and at the end the adjudicator said he would deliberate on the case and inform both sides of his decision within 2 weeks.

It was a very tense wait which lasted nearly three weeks but on Tuesday 22nd of March 2022 the decision was announced and after  17 month, my lawyer informed me that I had won.

Mango had 28 days to appeal the ruling but they declined.  I cannot tell you the overwhelming sense of relief and sweet satisfaction that I felt. Not only for myself but also for other small businesses, I hope my story will inspire them to continue fighting their case and not be dissuade or intimidated by these big companies.

 

Although I won my case in its entirety, I am still facing thousands of pounds worth of legal fees. But if you ask me was it worth it, I would still say yes.

What Mango forgets is, even big companies started small. I believe in the importance of my products and have a clear vision for the Mangotree Kids brand and now not even Mango can stop this.

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