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What’s in a name?

Mike Shaw discusses the High Court’s decision in Karen Millen on a founder’s use of their own name following a business exit

8 November 2016

Many business founders choose to name their businesses after themselves and these names often remain long after the founder has exited the business. In the fashion industry, the use of own-name brands is particularly common – Alexander McQueen, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Gucci are just a few examples.

But what are the legal implications of choosing this branding strategy? The recent decision of the High Court in Karen Millen v Karen Millen Fashions Limited [2016] EWHC 2104 (Ch) provides valuable guidance in relation to businesses that are identified by the personal name of their founder.

Karen Millen started her clothing business in 1983 and remained in charge of all creative matters until around 2002, at which point she decided to step back for personal reasons. The business was sold in 2004 to the defendant’s predecessor in title under a detailed sal...

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