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November 18, 2015

Whose name is it anyway?

What’s in a name? Potentially, quite a lot apparently. Especially some of the more iconic names associated with Scotland’s landscape and history. It seems that the National Trust for Scotland has been getting a bit twitchy about the opportunities for commercial exploitation. Trouble is, that while NTS may have been acting with the best of intentions, they forgot to tell the people who live in these places that their communities’ names were being registered as trademarks.


The Herald

SCOTLAND’S leading conservation charity is trying to register the names of two of the country’s most historical locations as trademarks in a bid to protect the sites against commercial exploitation.

The National Trust for Scotland’s application to register Glencoe and Glenfinnan has sparked concern over how the move will affect local communities.

The organisation has stressed that it is to protect the beauty spots against any attempt by businesses with no local, or sometimes even Scottish, connections to exploit their commercial potential.

But community leaders in both locations said they knew little or nothing about the NTS move and how a trademark might restrict local commercial life.

Alister Sutherland, chairman of the Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council, said: “It is not widely known the NTS is doing this. When it is known, I would think there will be local concern. For a start the NTS only owns part of Glencoe. There are several other significant landowners.

“We are having a community council meeting on Wednesday night and this issue is not as yet on the agenda, but I will be raising it under Any Other Competent Business (AOCB).”

A local businessman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “We just don’t know how this might impact on us using Glencoe in our promotional material for example.”

Duncan Gibson, a local hotelier who is also chairman of Glenfinnan Community Council, said: “I knew nothing about this at all. The community council would certainly want to learn more, and be kept in the loop.”

Three years ago there was major row between the NTS and the Western Isles Council when it emerged that the local authority had registered St Kilda as a trademark.

The charity said at the time that trademarking a geographical place name (owned by the NTS) set a “disturbing precedent”, however subsequently a cordial accommodation was reached.

Like St Kilda, Glencoe is known the world over. It is the site of the infamous massacre in February 1682 of the MacDonalds, on the orders of the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile Glenfinnan was where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in August 1745 at the head of Loch Shiel. The NTS has a monument to the event there, a lone kilted highlander atop 60ft high column.

More recently the Glenfinnan viaduct also gained international recognition as the dramatic film setting for the Hogwarts Express which carried Harry Potter off to school.

An NTS spokesman said the charity already held trademarks for sites as the Battle of Bannockburn, the Soldier’s Leap at Killiecrankie and Culloden, the scene of Prince Charlie’s defeat in 1746.

He added: “We have recently made applications to register the names ‘Glencoe’ and ‘Glenfinnan’ as a trademarks.

“In recent years, practice in the trademark registries affecting Scotland has changed and it has become apparent to us that other parties, often based outwith Scotland, have registered trademarks or sought to register marks over place-names for some of the key heritage locations owned by the Trust.

“After much thought, we consider that it is more appropriate for the Trust to hold these marks given our long-standing obligations to care for and protect these places.

“The alternative is to risk rights over these names being acquired by commercial organisations with interests that may not align with those of the Trust’s conservation and charitable purposes, nor with the wellbeing of local residents and businesses.”

He said registering the trademarks would “categorically not hinder” the use of the name by local businesses which wished to refer to their geographic location or to businesses which had already been trading with the place names. They would have accrued prior rights.  

However, it would give the NTS “the right to protect the names in respect from inappropriate exploitation or use by parties who are not located in or near these places”.

He added: “Holding these trademarks gives our charity the chance to make the most of these special places in terms of marketing, increasing public awareness of the site itself and the Trust’s role in caring for them, hopefully resulting in more support for our charitable cause and in attracting visitors, who in turn contribute to local economies.”