NEWCASTLE United boss Mike Ashley has won a legal battle over the naming rights of his sportswear empire.
A couple claimed they coined a version of the Sports Direct brand long before the billionaire.
Brian and Julie Dickson complained to the Government’s trademark watchdog in 2008, insisting their company, Sport Direct International Ltd, had the rights to the well-known brand.
The husband and wife business team claimed Ashley’s company name conflicted with their own unlicensed trademark, which they have been using since 2005.
The Dicksons claimed they have been trading under the name with Asda and the UK firm’s parent company, US-based Walmart, for seven years.
Their company, which is now in liquidation, brought proceedings against Ashley’s firm through the Intellectual Property Office.
The hearing in London was told how Ashley’s management team had considered the Sports Direct name, and website domain www.sportsdirect.com, as early as 2004.
Robert Mellors, Sports Direct’s director since 2002, said the label came from Viking Direct, the branding of a stationary company known to the firm’s founder, Ashley. The name was originally mooted as a possible new online sportswear arm of the firm.
Ashley’s team officially registered www.sportsdirect.com in 2006, before the Dicksons adopted the brand Sport Direct.
A report from the IPO ruled that the Dicksons’ claim does not stand up.
IPO officer Allan James found that Ashley considered the brand Sports Direct long before the Dicksons, and rejected the couple’s claims.
He said: “On the facts as I have them, Sports Direct was investigating the use of the name well before the Dicksons adopted a similar mark.
“In 2005, Mr Dickson’s business was just starting out and had no established goodwill for Sports Direct to steal, even if it wanted to.”