Jaguar vs. Jaguar Shoes

Francesca Gavin, Dazed's Visual Arts Editor, on the name fight between a small east London bar and a giant international car manufacturer

Image

Intellectual property laws were originally created to defend and give rights to people working with intangible assets such as music, art, inventions, symbols and such. A little protection. Increasingly, as the recent furore around the SOPA bill proved, the brands now use these laws to assert their power and dominance. Has it all gone too far? Does every little object, word and name in our modern world have to be followed by a © symbol?

Jaguar Shoes, as a name, is something innately now part of east London’s heritage and doesn't conflict or compete with a bloody great car company. Jaguar is an animal. Should a brand have the right to copyright nature? Has litigation culture just gone a bit too far?

A perfect example of how brands (and their legal departments) are bulldozing creativity in the name of their alma mater is currently unfolding in east London. Jaguar vs JaguarShoes. Once upon a time Hoxton was the arse end of the world. Certainly not an international destination for creativity and fun that it has become over the past decade. When bar DreamBagsJaguarShoes was founded in 2001 the area was empty. Shoreditch was all bag and shoe wholesalers at that point. “Our landlord, he started JaguarShoes in the early 80s importing African shoes. That’s all Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road was even in ‘96 and ’97,” founder Nick Letchford explains. Nick and his sister Teresa took over two abandoned shops at the low end of Kingsland Road and transformed them into a bar. They didn't touch the signage – that was just part of the area’s history. Just as you can still see painted signs from old ads on the brick works of east London or references to the waves of immigrants to the area of the past two hundred years, so the signs on Kingsland Road were part of what makes the area real. A history that isn't being wiped away by the onslaught of gentrification. “We always say it’s a homage to a time before bars,” Nick notes.

Over the decade the bar has become the area’s stalwart – a place where everyone gets drunk, launches creative projects, plays gigs, DJs, puts on exhibitions. Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith, Kylie, Kirsten Dunst were all spotted there. Bands Like Animal Collective played gigs. It's helped launched the careers of JR and Dface. It formed a creative collective of designers and artists, including Chrissie Abbott and Will Sweeney.  

Jaguar cars are currently taking legal action against the bar and demanding they give up the name. Jaguar itself was a name adopted by the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1935. It was used to name one of their cars and they stuck with it after World War II - the name ‘SS’ didn’t sound too good post-Hitler... Jaguar Shoes, as a name, is something innately now part of east London’s heritage and doesn't conflict or compete with a bloody great car company. Jaguar is an animal. Should a brand have the right to copyright nature? Has litigation culture just gone a bit too far?

More Arts+Culture