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Legal battle over ‘Tin Pan Alley’ trademark

Trader whose family have been connected to Denmark Street for two decades launches High Court appeal in ‘David & Goliath’ clash with property developer

23 February, 2018 — By William McLennan

Denmark Street

A SMALL business owner who was stripped of his right to trade under the name “Tin Pan Alley” says he is engaged in a “David and Goliath” battle with a billion-pound property developer as he prepares for a High Court appeal.

Andrew Cooper, whose family has been associated with the musical heritage of Denmark Street for two decades, lost the right to use the historical nickname as a trademark last year in an Intellectual Property Office ruling. He has now launched a legal appeal of the decision and is set to face off against Consolidated Developments, who are behind a vast overhaul of the area.

He accused them of using “David and Goliath intimidation tactics” by taking the “unusual step of electing to force my appeal into the High Court, which turns it into a very expensive case”.

Consolidated strenuously deny the charge and say they, too, believe the case can be settled outside the High Court.

The street, once the centre of London’s music scene, took its nickname from an area of New York City that was packed with publishers and songwriters during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Elton John, the Kinks and the Rolling Stones are among an all-star list of musicians to record on the street.

The IPO last year sided with the developer’s lawyers, who claimed Mr Cooper was not actively trading under the name, and ordered him to also pay costs of £1,700.

Mr Cooper, who ran a shop selling recording equipment until 2014, said: “The name Tin Pan Alley [TPA] has been in my family for over 20 years and during the period in question I was the chairman and treasurer of the Tin Pan Alley Traders Association, working with many of the shops in Denmark Street, the shops also having sold my TPA T-shirts and other promotional items and I agreed my mark could be used on the TPA music festival.”

Denmark Street has been at the heart of a long-running battle between independent stores and Consolidated. A petition calling on them to “pre-serve the heritage and integrity of Denmark Street” has amassed nearly 36,000 signatures.

In 2013 they were granted permission to knock down a run of buildings in Denmark Place and construct three buildings between four and seven storeys in height, containing offices, homes, shops and restaurants.

In a statement issued by their lawyers, Consolidated Developments said: “While we respect Mr Cooper’s prior association with Tin Pan Alley, that does not given him a commercial monopoly over the name, particularly when he has failed to keep it in use, having left the area some time ago. We plan to use the Tin Pan Alley mark in association with Denmark Street and the high quality musical goods and services for which it is known.

“We are not ‘forcing’ Mr Cooper’s appeal into the High Court, as Mr Cooper wrongly suggests, indeed quite the opposite.

“We have made it very clear to Mr Cooper’s legal team that we do not agree with the transfer of his appeal to the High Court, for various reasons, one of which is the escalation of costs that would cause, for both sides; on the contrary, we feel that Mr Cooper’s Appeal should be decided by Mr Geoffrey Hobbs QC, to whom it has been made, and we await his decision on the matter”.

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