Daniel Cooke joined Robert Thompson's Craftsmen Limited as a trainee in 2009. The family business is licensed to continue the legacy of the Kilburn-based designer, who died in 1955, and include his iconic 'mouse' carving on all of their pieces.
Yet after Cooke, of Dalton, left the business in 2017, employees noticed convincing fake Mouseman goods appearing for sale on online auction site eBay.
They complained to North Yorkshire County Council's trading standards team, who began an investigation into the counterfeit goods, which bore the mouse trademark.
Robert Thompson's Craftsmen directors arranged for the purchase of a barometer advertised for sale, and it was found that it had not been produced in the workshop.
Trading standards officers subsequently recovered a number of fake Mouseman items from Daniel Cooke’s home, including a coffee table, a moneybox and a Yorkshire rose. He co-operated with the investigation and admitted making the items. Investigation of the eBay account used showed that Mr Cooke had sold 70 fake pieces, including nut bowls, ashtrays, clocks, bookends and a nest of tables.
Cooke was given a community order for 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £1,592 at York Magistrates Court on Friday after pleading guilty to six offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994.
Sentencing Cooke, the chair of the magistrates’ bench said that the offences were a serious matter and showed a high level of professionalism using a skill taught to Mr Cooke by Robert Thompson’s Craftsmen Limited. However, he accepted that Mr Cooke had co-operated with the authorities and had turned his life around, and so avoided more serious punishment.
Coun Andrew Lee, executive member for trading standards, said: “Buyers of the items sold by Daniel Cooke were expecting to get an original product crafted in the Robert Thompson workshops. Instead, they were sent poorer copies made by Daniel Cooke after he had left the company. These copies did not meet the standards set by the company, and had the potential to damage the reputation of a long-established North Yorkshire business.
“The county council is determined to ensure that North Yorkshire is a good place to do business, and we will take action against anyone who harms North Yorkshire businesses as well as North Yorkshire consumers.”
Robert Thompson's Craftsmen managing director Ian Thompson added: “Robert Thompson’s Craftsmen Ltd, the family-run, Yorkshire-based business is grateful to Trading Standards for pursuing this particular case against Daniel Cooke, a former employee, and achieving a successful conviction.
"For this to happen to a small business like ours not only puts our reputation on the line, it could also jeopardise current employees’ jobs. With the growth in online sales, it’s reassuring for us all to know that trading standards are protecting businesses and consumers from individuals who sell counterfeit goods.”