Design outfit threatens to sue Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages has accused a marketing company which is threatening to sue it of “trying to cash in” by claiming the directory’s recent redesign is a copy of its own corporate identity.

The Yellow Pages redesign, by design agency Johnson Banks, features front covers of yellow objects including bananas, cheese, lemons, submarines and bath ducks (MW August 26).

But the Freestone design consultancy – whose clients include Abbey National, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin – has used the same objects on stationery and company literature for three years. Freestone has sported yellow and black colours since 1985.

Freestone senior partner Stuart Freestone says: “Our core business is design. If potential clients see our literature and think we have copied Yellow Pages they will question our integrity, and it could mean millions of pounds in lost revenue.”

He says his company, which has advertised in Yellow Pages for a number of years, may be forced to rebrand. He wants compensation: “If Yellow Pages thinks we’ll let this go, it’s wrong.”

Yellow Pages marketing communications controller Nigel Marson says: “Someone always writes in trying it on. I am not saying that is what it is doing, but it looks like it.”

Marson says: “We haven’t done anything wrong, so the idea of compensation doesn’t arise.”

He suggests Freestone should “turn it in to a piece of flattery”.

A letter from Yellow Pages’ legal service department to Freestone’s lawyers says any similarity bet ween the designs is remote and coincidental, and denies passing off or copyright infringement. The letter says: “Yellow Pages has no intention of abandoning use of the proposed designs.”

In a reply letter, Freestone’s lawyers say it intends to sue for breach of copyright if agreement is not reached.

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