: In the spirit of Mcspotlight comes the Chocspotlight campaign, as UK children's entertainer Ed Lane fights Goliath-sized choc manufacturer and shop chain, THORNTONS PLC,.
: Thorntons are Europe's largest choc makers with a taste for grabbing other people's creative work for conversion into boxed, choc format. Example: Ed's 'Jake the Drake' character of ten years, stolen 1996, and world-famous Coco the Clown, stolen 1997. Nice choc; shame about the business ethics.
: Ed's High Court case was recently 'struck out' before reaching trial, after he made a simple slip in Court procedure. As he now licks his wounds and faces heavy costs, he is resolved to battle on, not for money, but to retrieve "the only bloody thing I have worth nicking."
: Plenty of NG postings allied to this on UK LEGAL as Ed jabs away at the conscience of lawyers in the hope of getting a few scraps of legal help.
: Victim of Thorntons' libellous nasties department and fiendish tactics of their legal hounds, Ed now looks beyond the ivory towers of High Court Chancery to highlight corporate bullying at its worst.
: Thorntons plc (of Derby) are moving into the fast-track. According to Ed's notes from their last November AGM, they plan to gradually replace many of their sweetie shops with prime-site McBrownStuff cafes, after the style of we-know-who.
: "When you reach rock bottom,
: there's usually only one way left to go: -
: Substrata !
: says jake the drake
Hello again, burger boppers of the Global Village. Love, peace, and a bit of what you fancy from Ed and Jake the Drake of Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent.
We Stokies eat Staffordshire oatcakes, read, 'The Sentinel', go shopping, stare at the statue of Sir Stanley Mathews, and remember the good old days with the pottery industry in full swing, coal to be dug, a thriving steelworks...jobs by the bucketful...but no M-M-Mc...
I have yet to explore Website potential in my dispute with THORNTONS PLC, so thanks for your tolerance in my use of this space.
Thorntons' glossy Anal Report 97 plopped through my letterbox this morning. (After some deliberation I decided not to sell my single share.)
A good year, excess of a hundred million pounds gross and climbing. Plenty of new shops opened and a few more experimental McBrownstuff Cafes doing very well. So all you UK dentists, doctors, dieticians, slimming clubs, get ready for a bumper year 98, heh heh.
Last week I was up in Manchester High Court to argue some of the costs that I'll never be able to pay anyway. Those cheeky buggers, THORNTONS tried to charge me with 'Defamation Research' after their vice-chairman, Michael Thornton O.B.E. falsely accused me of bopping their shop staff during a public demo in July 96.
In what is now known as the 'Saint James Street Incident', I was supposed to have run into their shop, wrecked a brown-stuff display and quacked obscenities to terrified McStaff.
Sadly for millionaire Michael-vice-Thornton, my friend Dave of N.G.P. Productions had video-taped my peaceful protest, and I clearly had never gone into the store at any time. So when I managed to squeeze a grudging letter of withdrawal and apology from Mike-the-Vice, I thought that was an end to it, until I saw my duck's Bill of Costs. Okay now, though, they dropped that element of costs.
The Judge also scrapped another little extra: THORNTONS tried to tag on the full retail price of two of their choc ducks used as court exhibits last year. I wouldn't have minded, but take away the fancy box packaging and you're left with no more chocolate than would fill the hollow tooth of a gnat's ghost.
The thrust of my Costs case was that of refusing to pay for THORNTONS barrister (courtroom lawyer, U.S.A.) Because here, a barrister may not sue a solicitor for his fee, which is considered a debt of honour. So I say to M'lud, how can debts of honour be conferred on me, who has none?
But the Judge was having none of it. He was patient enough, I admit that, and has promised to send me a copy of the authority which states that debts of honour of this kind can indeed be passed on, thanks very much.
Can I justify instigating a Civil action, knowing that, having nothing, I had nothing to lose? Do I at least accept moral responsibility for those actions?
Well, I took the Legal path only as a last resort, a desperate plea for justice, after giving THORNTONS three months to back off or print a disclaimer, talk contracts, whatever. Hey, it ain't my fault that copyright cases UK can only be tried in the High Court, right? I would have been quite happy to trundle this case before local magistrates.
Didn't know this at the time, but I had no chance at all of getting an Injunction against THORNTONS, because, being a 'man of straw' I had no way to indemnify their potential losses, should I ultimately have lost the case. Plus of course, I took my evidence along to that Injunction hearing in two Tesco carrier bags, thinking that the judge would find time to peruse my entire Jake the Drake works.
Another thing I learned only recently is this: Your lowlife Litigant-in-Person just does not get to the full trial stage. L.i.P.'s embarrass the hell out of the High Court, like having some ragamuffin beggar gatecrash the Royal Box at Ascot. As for the so-called LEGAL AID, well, you might wish to give me a list of impoverished artists who have been thus funded for a copyright trial against any wealthy corporation UK?
In short, intellectual property rights here are pretty useless for ordinary people. Proving a copyright or goodwill is easy. Getting a trial against hostile copyright thieves is another thing entirely. This is something they never tell you at art college. And this is another reason for my wanting to spread the word.
Some creative innocent, even as I speak is posting his script off to people he will never meet, and who quite likely would rip off his work, if they liked it enough. Three years' worth of nuts trusted to some faceless monkey? Songwriters, painters, designers, they're all out there, can't all be stars, and all hoping for that lucky break.
Once they know the score, they might decide to put their beer money into some intellectual property insurance, or something. It's no fun having your work nicked. Not only does the infringer get away with paying you no dues - however much a pittance that might be - but they also get all the credit for that work. To my mind, it's a full-blown theft, no mistake. Should be a criminal offence, especially when the perpetrator knows they are safe, got the wealth, the workforce, the status, the providers of jobs, all that stuff.
Since I started to take a broader interest in copyright, the more I learn the less I like. There seems to exist some inexplicable corporate disdain for creative acumen. Yet with great relish they or their agents will scoop up other people's artistic work for their own use, after a cursory check on the length of the artist's drive-way, of course.
Pity that THORNTONS are not here to present their case, maybe to explain how they designed a choc duck character called 'Jake the Drake' who wears the same mid-green baseball cap, with music symbols on the box (my act is musical), cross-eyes, oversized hands, feet and beak, "fun-loving, talk-of-the-town" text. I ask you: how the hell can a bob of chocolate be 'fun-loving'?
Let me give you their side of the story. Nine years after mine, they 'coincidentally' created theirs in the design department of their H.Q. in Derby (30 miles from my house). Three of their loyal workforce share the onus of this creation. Their in-house designer, their boiler-room mechanic, and another mysterious person X, who nobody can remember.
Their designer designed the duck, similarities and all. The boiler-man 'won' an internal staff competition to name the duck. Person X suggested they do a drake instead of a duck, (says the boilerman). It would appear that a host of creative professionals - including the design department and an ADVERTISING AGENCY could not name their duck to THORNTONS' satisfaction. So they decided to hold a staff competition.
But their many hundreds of loyal shop staff were excluded from this competition, and here's why. Having 'won' the name-the-duck competition, the boiler-man now swears an affidavit that he has "never been to Stoke-on-Trent". And that, my friends, for a man who lives in Derby, is one helluva thing to swear to!
Not that it would makes any difference. At the time of this swearing, they obviously thought I was tied to my garden fence or something. They had yet to learn the range of my fan-club, press, reputation, etc. And of course, I would soon be gathering letters of support from Lord Mayors, Company Directors, Magistrates, School Headmasters, Teachers, Social Workers, all from people who have known me for years, and known of my Jake the Drake works.
When THORNTONS finally realized what they were walking into as this case edged towards a trial, they must have been pretty goddam hot under those brown-stuff McCollars. They needn't have worried. The system did their work for them long before 'disclosure' stage.
Let me say again that Thorntons have High St stores in all major towns, and until recently had two in mine. Let me also say that over the past ten years, I have been extremely mobile in my public performances, as well as doing school concerts, plays, charity gigs, with plenty of regional press, some radio, a couple of fleeting t.v. appearances, and loads of word-of-mouth goodwill.
Sure I'm no national celebrity, but what the hell, you do what you do.
I also do badges, colouring posters for the kids, song-tapes, and stuff, all original copyright works. It isn't overstating my case to say that most people in Staffordshire know Jake the Drake. And plenty more in Cheshire, Derbyshire and North Wales.
Yet Thorntons go on record as saying that 'no-one at Thorntons had heard of me', unquote. They employ THOUSANDS of people in their factory and have around six hundred shops throughout the UK. Some of their McShop staff virtually fall over me in their lunch break.
And then there are lots of odd links. Like for instance, THORNTONS intellectual property advisors are a legal firm called SWINDEL AND PEARSON, who have a branch across from STOKE railway station, just a mile down the road in FEDERATION HOUSE. They are the number one commercial copyright advisors of this city. They share that grand, monumental building with Staffordshire University, and loads of Ceramics Industry offices. In short, right in there at the throbbing McHeart of this city.
Another odd link: Some local businessfolk once kindly sent a photograph and details of me and Jake to a children's charity called CHILDLINE. That was five or so years back. No response, but guess who has been involved with theCHILDLINE charity for ten years? THORNTONS PLC.
Plenty more links where those came from, but saving some for the Web, photos, soundfiles, and all. But may I just say HELLO to my friends at BBC RADIO STOKE. ....that's another story...
Thanks for reading, all the best from Ed
"Nice duck -
Shame about the source!"
says Jake the Drake.