SOMETIMES it pays to stick to your guns, even when you appear to be faced with long odds.
Just ask Charles Fawcett. Earlier this year Mr Fawcett, who specialises in modifying Land Rover Defenders won a three-year legal battle with the industry giant which manufactured the classic vehicle over the use of two letters - LR.
Twisted Automotive, which is based in Thirsk in North Yorkshire, has carved out a niche in re-engineering the Defender, and Mr Fawcett, the business’s founder, purchased 240 vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) when the manufacturer ceased production of the world-famous model in January 2016.
Jaguar had first attempted to register ownership of the initials LR’ as a trademark three years ago, after requesting the Yorkshire company stop using the letters, claiming that it was “widely understood” that they referred to Land Rover.
However, Twisted opposed JLR’s attempt to register LR’ as a trademark in view of alleged earlier rights, having been trading as LR Motors since November 2015 and therefore having “acquired goodwill” under the name.
It was alleged that the use of the trademark applied for would be a misrepresentation to the public and result in damage to that goodwill.
Following an earlier hearing at the UK Intellectual Property Court in May 2018, the UK Trade Mark Office ruled in favour of Twisted - however, JLR lodged an appeal with the High Court against the decision.
This appeal was rejected following a hearing in December 2018, when Mrs Justice Rose said the underlying assumption that everyone realised the initials LR’ in LR Motors referred to Land Rover was merely an assertion by Jaguar, with no supporting evidence.
Despite the previous ruling, JLR lodged a second appeal but this too was rejected by the Court of Appeal on March 21. The Rt Hon Justice Floyd stated there were no new factual grounds for appeal, and it was merely an attempt to re-argue a case that had failed previously. A spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover said the company had no comment on the case.
Legal action of this type and duration is not for the faint hearted.
“You have got to balance risk,’’ said Mr Fawcett. “You can’t just run into something. In this situation, I knew I was right, so I trusted that the system would back me up on that.
“You’re on a bit of an emotional roller coaster really. It’s not just what it costs it’s how much time it takes. We had a great team and the guys at 3volution (the law firm which advised him) did a fantastic job. “
“Now that we have secured the name, I think it’s time to focus on our LR business.”
The Twisted company, which was established in 2001 by Mr Fawcett is truly a labour of love. Mr Fawcett joined the family business in 1995 and in 2000 set up Twisted as a side operation, offering tuning and performance enhancements for the Land Rover Defender, Discovery and Range Rover. In 2009, he made the decision to focus purely on the Defender.
He said “LR is run by a small team and recently we have grown the team to be able to grow the business. So LR motors focuses on the re-sale of the Landrover defender and going forward it will carry out more restoration and paint works.”
Mr Fawcett wants customers to feel that their vehicle will get the attention it deserves.
He added: “We will have a website that will have a very detailed web shop for Landrover parts. We want to push the service side of the business and we want to enter the hire market.”
A key focus for the firm will be on the aftermarket, an area of great importance for customers.
He said: “One of the big challenges we have is bringing the aftermarket together.
“I do believe that manufacturers have gone wrong in ignoring the aftermarket. The aftermarket has created the newer products and it has built up an incredible following.
“Now that we have secured our image as LR, I intend to give the aftermarket a great big cuddle and bring together many of the users of the classic Landrover vehicle and many of the manufacturers and re-seller of products.
“The medium term plan would would be to have LR service centres dotted around the UK”
One of the key elements of the proposed centres would be an access ramp so customers could work on their own vehicle.
“So many owners have these vehicles and they like to tinker with them,” he said.
Some of these vehicles might, for example, have acquired a dent on the wing from a weekend of off-roading. However, owners are always willing to devote time and money to ensure their pride and joy is restored to pristine condition.
Mr Fawcett added: “All these people have invested in that product and in that brand.
“I feel that, up to a point, they have been ignored. The Defender has never been a vehicle that is there to just serve a purpose. The reason to own it is the way it makes you feel.
“People are always looking for ways to personalise that vehicle, it may have a different floor mat or a different wheel on it, or you might alter the engine to do something differently.
“It’s a really personal thing and an emotional purchase. That ultimately is what brought such a great following for JLR.
“Cars generally are an extension of the individual.,’’ he said. “It really doesn’t matter if you are going to the auction mart or the supermarket or going out to dinner. If you’re in a Defender, you just feel that you fit in.
“It’s a vehicle that creates an emotion. There are so many ways you can personalise a Defender and some alterations are not improvements. It is a business in itself and a great big marketplace. It is time that all these people were given an opportunity to get together and enjoy that ownership, collaboratively.
He added: “Giving them access to a safe working environment where they can tinker with the vehicle, is quite an exciting opportunity. I’m just on a journey with the business and that journey doesn’t seem to have an end.”
Date of birth: January 11 1978
Education: Northallerton School then grammar school
First job: At 14 I worked at the Queen’s Head near Leyburn, but my first ‘proper’ job was in the motor trade, working for my father, helping to train off-road drivers
Last book read: The Chimp Paradox
Favourite film: Top Gun
Favourite song: Ed Sheeran, Castle on the Hill
Favourite holiday destination: South of France
What are you most proud of?: My children – two daughters Kate and Molly, I’m ever so proud of those two little legends.Work-wise, I would have to say the business and the brand and what we have established from nothing in just 10 years.