aero and automotive engines and engineers

Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd v Lagonda Ltd & Walker Owen Bentley

The full case report is made available with the kind permission of the UK Patent Office     Best viewed with MS Internet Explorer 5 or above.  Please click here to go to the list of articles on this site's home page.

Please note:  For technical reasons, the pages containing the law report are temporarily unavailable.  They should be back - on a new server - by Sunday 17th March 2002

Brief Introduction

Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd was the company set up by Rolls-Royce Ltd to acquire the business and assets of Bentley Motors Ltd.  It appears that the original Bentley company never registered the name "Bentley" as a Trade Mark.  The new company rapidly applied to do so and eventually succeeded.  Whilst W.O. Bentley entered into a contract with Rolls-Royce, he was never entirely happy there and left as soon as he contractually could do so - 30th April/1st May 1935.

He went to Lagonda, and soon tried to persuade Rolls-Royce's Harry Grylls to join him there and direct development of a large luxury Lagonda.  Grylls, perhaps wisely, turned down the offer.  Bentley's distant second choice was Stewart Tresilian, who did accept.  Bentley was aware that he had been developing - on paper - a short-stroke ohc V12 alternative for the Phantom III and was increasingly unhappy at Derby.  The resulting car was the V12 Lagonda.

It was realised during the war the post-war Lagonda would have to be a smaller car than the V12 if it were to be profitable.  Rolls-Royce and other companies had also come to similar conclusions.  In August 1944, the Lagonda company placed advertisements on the front cover page of the "Tatler" and the "Illustrated London News".  In November 1944, it was placed on the front cover page of "The Sphere Illustrated" and, in a different form, in "The Motor".

The form of the advertisement (other than in "The Motor") was:

The "Bentley Lagonda" advertisement that started the legal action

By kind permission of the UK Patent Office

Rolls-Royce, through its Bentley subsidiary, took great exception to these advertisements, saying that they amounted to trade mark infringement and passing off.  Rolls-Royce, after a hard fight that lasted 8 days in court (not including judgment), succeeded at the end of the day.

This report is of considerable historical interest, especially the findings of fact and conclusions made by the High Court Judge on the 7th and 8th pages (pages 39 and 40 of the actual report).  Mr. Justice Roxburgh, arguably one of the most feared Chancery Judges of the 20th century, continued to sit in major cases for well over the next ten years.

The author is content at this time to let readers make up their own minds about the case, the facts and the findings of fact.


Where the Case is reported

This case is reported in the 64th Volume of the Reports of Patent, Design and Trade Mark cases [usually referred to as the Reports of Patent cases or "RPC"].  It was and is published by official authority.  The text of the judgment (not the headnotes, etc) would have been approved by the judge before it was printed.

The copy that has been scanned is deliberately an original edition - whose immediate post-war paper has, unfortunately, become speckled and yellowed.  The RPC was and is printed in regular parts during the year, and the whole bound together after the end of the year.  This part appears to have been published in May 1947, and the report bound in 1948 - the digest for 1947 cases being published in January 1948.

An erratum slip at the beginning of the volume states that R. G. Lloyd, later R. G. Lloyd QC, also appeared for the Defendants.  All the counsel were top men, or were to become top men, in the Chancery Division.

The case report has been publicly available at all times since May 1947.  A cleaner reprint copy may be made available here in due course.


A word of thanks

The author would particularly like to thank the UK Patent Office for carefully considering his request to post the report and giving him permission so to do.  Their web-site is well worth a visit.

Richard Hodgson, May 2000

How the files are arranged and stored

The report consists of 8 close-printed pages.  The inside front cover page of the volume has also been scanned and made available.  Given the small size of the type and the poorish quality of the original, the pages have been scanned in at 300 dpi and, for ease of display, posted as standard internet ".gif" image files.   Whilst this means that there are no files to expand or convert, each page will take a substantial time to download - about a minute or even more if the line is poor - with a so-called "56K" connection.  Downloads will be very much faster with ADSL and Cable Internet access that are now beginning to become widely available.

Storage Note: The files for this report are not stored on the commercial web-server that hosts the rest of wolfhound.org.uk or designchambers.com/wolfhound/.... (including this page).  Due to file size considerations, the report files are stored on a free web-space server that is not always available or can be busy at times.  If a "page unavailable" message is returned, please try again after a few seconds or try a little later on.  Please remember that this web-site makes no charge for making these files available!

The report pages will look far better if printed out (for private use and/or research only unless further permission of the Patent Office is obtained) than they they do on the screen.


Which set of files to use?

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Note:  The image file for a given SVGA or XGA page is exactly the same and, depending on your web-browser, may very well not have to be downloaded again at great length (see immediately above) if, say, the XGA version of page 3 is downloaded after the SVGA version of page 3 has been downloaded.  As the text and image manipulation file for each SVGA or XGA page is typically only about 2K long, skipping from SVGA to XGA or vice-versa for a given page may be very fast. be very fast.


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