NORTHUMBERLAND fishing tackle maker Hardy & Greys has enjoyed worldwide expansion in recent years. Karen Dent looks at how the Alnwick-based company is using legal expertise to protect its business from sharks across the globe.
FROM the outside, angling appears to be a timeless, almost sedate, pastime whose essential components have not changed in centuries – rod, net, bait and endless patience.
The companies which supply the angler should therefore reflect this by being dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists who don’t bend to passing fads or fashions – or so the theory goes.
In reality, angling is a highly competitive and lucrative sector of the global leisure market where if you don’t adapt, you won’t survive.
Alnwick’s Hardy & Greys knows this better than most. Whilst the company is steeped in tradition, with more than 137 years of excellence in the fishing tackle industry, it has changed its image, its products and its way of doing business radically in the past few years to emerge as a very different kind of business.
Managing director Richard Sanderson says: “Why should a company like Hardy, with such a highly regarded reputation, need to reinvent itself?’ The answer is simple. It’s product.
“For Hardy to succeed we had to change, and change required a significant realignment of our product offering. Over the past three years, I am proud to say we have done just that.
“That’s not to say we can sit back and just go fishing! Far from it, we must continue to live, breathe and constantly push the boundaries of what the fishermen, demand from his fishing gear. Whether this be rods, reels, clothing, luggage, lines, leaders or even a priest! The product is king.”
With this mantra in mind, Hardy & Greys has brought out a huge range of different products catering for the modern angler’s every need, from fly-fishings rods made with the latest materials technology to a fast-growing clothing range, and all with its famous brand names.
It is vital to protect both products and brands from competitors. This is one sure way to make sure your products stand out in a highly competitive market, by providing an identity and branding that gives the customer a reason to buy. To help with this process, the company has brought on board legal expertise in the form of Newcastle-based law firm Ward Hadaway’s highly regarded Intellectual Property team.
Ward Hadaway now manages Hardy & Greys’ worldwide trademark portfolio, which is one of the largest of any company in the North-East and covers areas including Europe, the US, Australia, Japan and Canada.
The firm registers all the company’s new brands as trademarks, renews its existing trademarks and deals with any trademark infringement or claims against producers making counterfeit Hardy & Greys goods.
Alex Shiel, head of Intellectual Property at Ward Hadaway, explains why this sort of protection is necessary for a company like Hardy & Greys.
“The company has for some time decided to put more emphasis on its brands protecting those brands using the brand and trademarks to lever themselves into new markets,” says Alex.
“The issue is how do they keep the high quality end of the brand relevant and also appeal to the mass market. The way they are doing this is to develop different brands and trademarks for different sectors.”
Mr Shiel says Hardy & Greys’ experience shows how moving into international markets makes developing and protecting brands from infringement a matter of increasing importance.
“Hardy & Greys sells the majority of its products through dealers rather than over the internet so the brand and trademark becomes more important as a badge of quality.
Ward Hadaway currently looks after more than 80 different trademarks for Hardy & Greys, covering everything from rods and reels to umbrellas and fishing bags.
Alex Shiel says the threat to Hardy & Greys’ business from trademark and brand infringement is most definitely real.
“They regularly become aware of counterfeiters who are infringing their trademarks by using protected Hardy & Greys brand names on rods or equipment,” says the IP lawyer.
“Usually the threat of court proceedings is enough to stop the misuse of Hardy & Greys’ brand continuing.”
While cracking down on the counterfeiters may be the most obvious role played by Hardy & Greys’ legal team, they are involved in a series of other activities.
For example, when the company is thinking of a name for a new product, it gets Ward Hadaway to carry out a search to ensure that the proposed name doesn’t infringe any other trademarks.
With increasing amounts of its business coming via the internet, Hardy & Greys also has to ensure it keeps a weather eye on the web.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Ward Hadaway also help Hardy & Greys on the company’s forays into licensing deals, where they are allowing their trademarks to be used under licence on non-core products such as hats and clothing.
Richard Sanderson says: “If we want the company to be around over the next 100 years we will need to protect and exploit the opportunity of the company’s brands and heritage to its maximum.
“The work and advice we have received from the team at Ward Hadaway has made a significant contribution to how we leverage our commercial programmes worldwide in this competitive market.”