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RAD threatens teacher with legal action


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I was made aware this morning of the RAD sending an email out to someone running a small business in London for senior ballet classes under the name "Senior Swans Ballet". The email threatens legal action and demands they stop using the name "Senior Swans Ballet" immediately, claiming it is too similar to the RAD "Silver Ballet" programme. Funny thing is, this lady was using the name "Senior Swans Ballet" more than two years BEFORE the RAD came up with the name "Silver Ballet" ... and, in any case, the RAD do not own copyright to the word "Silver" or "Senior" or "Swans" or indeed the word "Ballet".

 

It is outrageous that small freelance dancers are treated by the RAD in this way, especially in the current difficult times for the whole dance community. See the original post on Facebook below:

 

https://www.facebook.com/seniorswansballet/posts/1157258378044891

 

Please share with as many people as possible, I don't think the RAD should be bullying people in this way!

 

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On 28/01/2021 at 10:33, DadLovesBallet said:

Funny thing is, this lady was using the name "Senior Swans Ballet" more than two years BEFORE the RAD came up with the name "Silver Ballet" ... and, in any case, the RAD do not own copyright to the word "Silver" or "Senior" or "Swans" or indeed the word "Ballet".

 

 

No, but they are the owners of various "Silver Swans" trade marks, including UK00003046598, registered in 2014, which pre-dates the teacher's use of the phrase, so they may have a point.  (There is also a "Senior Swans" UK00003551973, held by a New Zealand company and applied for last November, but I wonder how interested a NZ company would really be in a UK trade mark, especially when use of the term pre-dates their application by several years).  I note a shortage of trade marks in the relevant class containing the word "Swans" at all, which makes me wonder whether the RAD is very active in protecting its intellectual property - which would be understandable since it doesn't want independent teachers to be perceived as offering its products when they aren't.  What is debatable, though, is whether ownership of a "Silver Swans" trade mark is enough to prevent the use of "Senior Swans" to designate ballet classes - and that I am not competent to judge, as it would need professional advice from a UK trade mark agent. 

 

The teacher will presumably have received a standard initial "cease and desist" letter aimed at companies rather than sole traders, which usually puts the fear of God into the uninitiated and is sufficient to get them to comply with what the trade mark owner wants, regardless of whether it's technically required.  The teacher would be well advised to get in touch (currently by email, as office phones may not be answered during lockdown) with a UK trade mark attorney ASAP and run the situation past them: I believe all firms will offer a free initial consultation on new cases to see whether it's worth proceeding with them, and that way at least she would know where she stands.

 

https://www.citma.org.uk/find-a-chartered-trade-mark-attorney.html

Edited by alison
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  • alison changed the title to RAD threatens teacher with legal action

Hi Alison,

 

I agree with you that "Senior Swans Ballet" comes nowhere near the Trademark "Silver Ballet". Senior ballet has come to the fore in the last few years and doubtless there are hundreds of ballet teachers / companies using the term all over the world. The sad fact is that this teacher does probably not have the means, or inclination, to fight this. This is understandable for someone who is not used to dealing with legal threats ... 

 

I am just mystified why the RAD would go after a freelance teacher like this and scare them. They must know that they do not stand a chance if it came to court. It has changed my outlook on the RAD as an organisation completely.

 

Marc

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Presumably the teacher could just remove the word "Swans" and just advertise it as Senior Ballet?   I agree this does seem a bit heavy handed and overwhelmingly petty on the part of the RAD, though.       

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DadLovesBallet, please note that there is no trade mark "Silver Ballet".  It's "Silver Swans", and there is a considerable amount of overlap between that and "Senior Swans", semantically at least.  Whether semantics are enough to justify proceeding against someone using "Senior Swans", I'm not at all sure, but a trade mark attorney would know, and if they aren't, the TMA would be able to suggest what to do next.

 

As I tried to suggest above, I would imagine that this is a standard "cease and desist" letter, and that no consideration was given to whether it was going to a company or a freelancer.  I do think it may well be worth this teacher taking professional advice, since it should cost her nothing.  She presumably stands to lose out financially if she has to destroy merchandise / get all her stationery reprinted / have the website and logo redesigned etc., so there's that to be borne in mind when weighing up costs.

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Just to second the comment that trade mark issues can get expensive (for whatever reason these legal specialists charge, in my experience, even more than regular lawyers). That's not to discourage the poor teacher from ringing round to find someone who will help out: the case seems potentially winnable to me so I hope she finds a pro bono adviser.

 

To see this from the other point of view, it may not be the RAD that is being heavy-handed but whichever outsourced company they use. That office has maybe spotted an opportunity to bill for doing some work. But that's probably me being cynical. Sylvia from Vienna is on in a minute, that should cheer us all up. 

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