Business development · 26 April 2016

Legal threats from Zara lead to sole trader rebranding

Zara owners threatened to sue sole trader Donna Dobson and made her pay legal fees

A countrywear shop owner in the north east market town of Barnard Castle has been forced to rebrand her business after the threat of heavy legal action from global fashion retail company Zara.

In a case that could be considered multinational bullying, founder of Zara Countrywear Donna Dobson received 40 pages of legal documents from high street chain Zara, demanding she change the name of her firm and take down her website and Facebook page.

Zara, owned by the global company Inditex, also demanded that Dobson destroy everything bearing the Zara Countrywear name, as well as sending her an £800 bill to cover the firm’s legal fees.

Zara threatened to sue Dobson for a percentage of the profits she has made since opening the shop in 2007 and naming it after her baby daughter Zara. After taking legal advice, Dobson realised that she had no option but to rebrand the business. She said: “As distraught and upset as I was about the injustice of it I had no choice. I’m a small sole trader and if I’d try to fight the case and didn’t win I could have lost not only my business but also my farm.”

Newly relaunched as Fox & Field, Dobson’s shop sells walking boots, tweed jackets and bespoke clothing from independent British and Irish brands to clients who typically live in the country and enjoy outdoor pursuits.

The demands from Zara came just weeks after Dobson’s shop was burgled and thousands of pounds’ worth of stock stolen.

Having recovered from the burglary and the threat of legal action, Dobson is now seeing the episode as an opportunity for her new brand. “I hope we might actually attract some new customers who could have been put off thinking we were connected with them. We have a very different customer base and offer high quality, British brands to discerning customers,” she added.

Dobson went on to say: “I still don’t understand why corporate giants can be allowed to stamp on the kind of local enterprises that this country was built on. I would like to warn anyone else thinking of naming a business. For us, we’ll not just carry on under a new name but we’ll become even better.”

The owner of Zara’s parent company Inditex, Spain’s Amancio Ortega Gaona, has amassed a personal fortune worth some $71.4bn on the back of his brand’s success, making him the world’s second richest man.

Micro business owners can shop around for legal services and don’t necessarily need to stay local. Read our expert’s legal advice.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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