A legal row has erupted between two Dundee United supporters’ groups over the right to use a 110-year old trademark which neither party owns.
The Dundee United Supporters’ Foundation was sent a letter by Mike Barile, secretary of the ArabTRUST, after it used the badge of Dundee Hibernian – the team that later became Dundee United – in an online tribute.
The group, which was founded in 2017, was marking the anniversary of Dundee Hibernian founder Pat Reilly’s death on April 6.
The ArabTRUST claims it owns the trademark and the use was unauthorised.
The trademark is in the process of being passed to the Trust, the second largest shareholder in Dundee Utd.
However, it currently belongs to a 71-year-old fan and businessman called Bob McPherson.
He trademarked the image to set up a small business selling Dundee Hibernian merchandise such as scarves and badges to supporters.
Mr McPherson has since decided to give up the business and passed his merchandise on to the ArabTRUST.
While it will eventually acquire the trademark for the historic crest, it still technically belongs to The Dundee Hibernian Football & Athletic Company Limited, of which he remains the named representative.
Mr McPherson said: “I got the badge registered and have been selling scarves and badges for a few years.
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“It reached the stage where it was quite happy to pass the business on to somebody else.
“I passed the merchandise to the ArabTRUST on March 7 but they are still going through the process of acquiring the trademark so jumped the gun a little bit.”
Mr McPherson said he was saddened that fans’ groups were at loggerheads over the use of the Dundee Hibernian crest.
Pat Reilly founded Dundee Hibernian in 1909 and joined the football league the following year.
The club changed its name to Dundee United in 1923 in order to broaden its appeal.
Reilly managed the club between 1909 and 1915 and then again from 1917 to 1922.
He remained club secretary during the two years he was not managing the side and died on April 6 1937 at the age of 64.
The use of former Dundee Hibernian crest in an online tribute to mark the anniversary of his death prompted the ArabTRUST to send an email warning of copyright infringement.
The email from Mr Barile, stated: “I write to you about potential infringement of the Dundee Hibernian trademark and attack a recent social media screenshot that uses our logo as evidence.
“This is an informal notice simply to bring to you attention that ArabTRUST are the current registered holders of the Dundee Hibernian trademark with the Intellectual Property Office (UK00002478643) and we wish to highlight that any organisation who have products or services that use the trademark without our authorisation will be in breach of our trading rights and open to action that may result in civil legal proceedings.”
The letter asks the DUSF to remove the post and ask permission before using the crest in future.
It concludes: “In this kind of scenario we’d probably accept a simple acknowledgement e.g. ‘reproduced by kind permission of ArabTRUST’.”
ArabTRust chair Susan Batten released a statement on Thursday morning saying the group “regretted” any upset that has been caused.
She said: “ArabTRUST regrets any upset caused by sending the informal email concerning the Dundee Hibernian trademark and we would like to make it clear that we have no intention of denying Dundee United Football Club, individual supporters or supporter organisations access to or the use of the Dundee Hibernian logo.
“The outline of our plan was and still is to secure the Dundee Hibernian trademark for the future benefit of our club and its supporters.
“We had hoped to make a statement regarding the trademark when all of the paperwork had been fully completed but recent events have unfortunately meant making this statement early.
“We will soon open discussions with all supporter groups, Arab Archive and the club to decide the best way forward to protect and make best use of this important part of our club’s history.
“ArabTRUST will be reviewing its internal communications policy immediately to ensure that this type of situation is not repeated.”