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With its colourful numbers and hands helpfully labelled minute and hour, a children’s learning clock from Oyster & Pop, a family firm in Devon, is sold online for about £20. A Rolex Oyster watch, on the other hand, calls itself a “superlative chronometer” and costs nearer £5,000.
Rolex is demanding that the smaller company change its name, however, arguing that people might think the Teignmouth children’s clocks have something to do with the Swiss watchmaker.
Oyster & Pop, which also sells wall charts, fraction sets and highlighters, was set up in 2021 by Emma Ross-McNairn and her sister Sarah Davies. The company is named after Oyster Bend in Torbay, where they grew up.
Lawyers for Rolex, which is based in Geneva, wrote to Oyster & Pop in early January to demand they rebrand. Rolex claims it is a similar name to its Oyster Perpetual line of watches.
The company says that the “average, reasonably well-informed consumer” would probably call the Rolex line of watches to mind when looking at the Oyster & Pop logo.
The letter added: “Consumers will inevitably be misled into thinking that your products emanate from Rolex.”
As a result the lawyers have demanded the firm change its logo, website domain and name to avoid further action.
Ross-McNairn, 46, said the situation was “nonsense” and that the lawyer’s letters had been “bullish”.
She told the BBC: “If someone says oyster to me, the first thing I think of is the Oyster Card on the Tube, not Rolex watches. I don’t think anyone could confuse our clocks as coming from Rolex.”
The Rolex Oyster was introduced in 1926 as the first waterproof watch. The Oyster Perpetual appeared in 1933 as the first waterproof automatic watch. James Bond wore one in Ian Fleming’s original books — it gets a name check in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — although Bond wears a Rolex Submariner in the films.
Oyster & Pop says on its website: “With the help of some teacher friends, we designed a clock to inspire kids to learn how to read analogue time whilst also making great looking wall decor.”
It is the second time Rolex has pursued the company. It previously beat the sisters by default in a trademark dispute in the US after Oyster & Pop was unable to pay for a legal battle over the issue.
Rolex USA lawyers had told the sisters that changing their category filing from International Class (IC) 14 for clocks to IC28 Toys and Games would resolve the issue.
However, the sisters say now they have made the change, lawyers have since decided that this would no longer be enough.
Ross-McNairn, who founded the business during lockdown in 2020, says that the rebranding would “crush” their small business.
She has started a petition on change.org which says: “We believe that there is no risk of anyone confusing us with Rolex.
“We don’t think that Rolex should be allowed to stop us from using a name that is not only substantially different from theirs but has personal connections to us as the founders of a small business. Rebranding would destroy Oyster & Pop.”