When brand-related commercial disputes are publicised in our media, typically the media sympathises with the underdog, rightly or wrongly, particularly where the small company or individual concerned finds itself embroiled in a David-versus-Goliath battle with a major multinational. The resulting negative PR and back-lash that brand owners can experience on social media often results in them ‘going easier’ upon the infringer, letting them off with a mere warning once a stop has been put to the infringing activity.

Are some entrepreneurs taking advantage of this? The recent media attention given to a small convenience store in North Tyneside might suggest so…

The story began in 2012 when the businessman concerned named his shop ‘Singhbury’s’ and was surprised to receive a ‘heavy-handed’ cease-and-desist letter from Sainsbury’s requesting a change of name. In addition to the visual and phonetic similarity to the well-known brand name, the sign writing was presented in white letters against an orange background, arguably serving as a further nod towards the iconic supermarket’s logo and get-up.

Although the shop owner duly complied with Sainsbury’s request, he has resurfaced in recent media reports as having since rebranded the shop name to become ‘Morrisingh’s’. Whilst dismissing the new choice of name as ‘fun and banter’, the shop owner also claimed that he was ‘worried’ how Morrisons might react and feared that a further legal altercation may await him.

However, perhaps to his and everyone else’s surprise, Morrisons is reported to be taking the pun ‘in good humour’ and as having no plans to challenge his use of the name. The bold move has clearly paid off! Not only has the corner shop received international press coverage and publicity, in addition to widespread attention on social media platforms, but he claims that the choice of name has already brought in far more business off the street. The shop had previously lacked passing trade.

We suspect that Morrisons’ approach might be better explained as a fear of the media witch-hunt which could ensue if they threatened the shop keeper, so it seems that they have cleverly elected to use the issue as a PR/goodwill opportunity of their own. Fair play or foul? You decide.