Louis Vuitton handbags family in trademark bust-up over their back-garden ornament business

A tiny family-run business that sells gnomes and other home and garden products has been handbagged by fashion giant Louis Vuitton in a David and Goliath trademark dispute.

Lawrence and Victoria Osborne, from Reepham, Norfolk, used their initials to name their lockdown start-up business L V Bespoke, which they run from a workshop in their back garden.

But when they tried to trademark the name in the UK, Louis Vuitton objected, claiming the similarity to its name and logo could damage its brand and give the couple – who have had a piece commissioned by the royal Sandringham estate in Norfolk – an unfair business advantage.

They have now been locked in a legal battle for nearly two years, costing them up to £20,000 and culminating in a hearing in front of a panel of the Intellectual Property Office on Monday. A ruling is expected in September.

Mrs Osborne, 47, said: ‘We’re trying to grow our business but this is a massive handbrake. It’s costing us a hell of a lot of money but we’re also having to put a brake on our growth because we don’t know if we’ll have to reinvent ourselves.

Lawrence and Victoria Osborne used their initials to name their lockdown start-up business L V Bespoke, but have now found themselves in a dispute

Lawrence and Victoria Osborne used their initials to name their lockdown start-up business L V Bespoke, but have now found themselves in a dispute

The pair run their small business, which sells gnomes and other garden furniture, from a workshop in the back garden

The pair run their small business, which sells gnomes and other garden furniture, from a workshop in the back garden

‘Part of our defence was statements from our followers and customers who said how much of a polar opposite we are to Louis Vuitton and they’d never associate the two businesses.’

Mrs Lawrence’s holiday let business and her 42-year-old husband’s work installing kitchens were ‘wiped out overnight’ by the first pandemic lockdown.

As they began to spend more time on the garden at their four-bedroom detached house in Reepham, Norfolk, they realised certain items were hard to come by, leading to the launch of L V Bespoke in June 2020.

Last year, Louis Vuitton, which was founded in 1854 and has its headquarters in Paris, had a turnover of £67.5 billion

Last year, Louis Vuitton, which was founded in 1854 and has its headquarters in Paris, had a turnover of £67.5 billion

Items they make include metal plant supports and decorative garden crowns. A 9ft crown was put on display in the grounds of Sandringham and smaller models remain on sale at the estate’s shop.

But the couple, who have three children, found themselves at loggerheads with Louis Vuitton in 2021 after the firm – the largest luxury brand in the world which has a distinctive interlocking letters logo – claimed their name interfered with its identity.

‘Louis Vuitton say they have superior rights to the initials “L V”,’ Mrs Osborne said.

‘They also have concerns over our handcrafted metalwork products because they use metal for their “L V” symbols on their handbags.’

Louis Vuitton also says its rival’s trademark application for metal plant supports crosses over with its rights involving the use of common metals and alloys and metal components for leatherware, such as closure systems, locks, handles and buckles.

‘Some of the things raised at the hearing were laughable and eyebrow raising,’ added Mrs Osborne.

The couple started the business during lockdown in June 2020 after their day jobs were 'wiped out overnight'

The couple started the business during lockdown in June 2020 after their day jobs were ‘wiped out overnight’

The business won an award at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in London for a disco-themed garden display

 The business won an award at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in London for a disco-themed garden display

‘They think we’re riding on their coat-tails but it has been detrimental for our small family business.

‘We’ve done all we can. Now we have to play the waiting game for the official verdict.’

Last year, L V Bespoke – which also provides indoor flower displays and won an award at the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in London for a disco-themed garden display – had a record turnover of £250,000.

Meanwhile Louis Vuitton, which was founded in 1854 and has its headquarters in Paris, had a turnover of £67.5 billion.

Louis Vuitton and the Intellectual Property Office were contacted for a comment.

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