Furniture stores embroiled in 'copycat' legal dispute

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Raft websiteTwo leading furniture stores have become embroiled in a legal dispute over the use of a "copycat" design and branding campaign.

In what could shape up to be a David and Goliath-like battle in the highly competitive retail sector, independent producer Raft Furniture has instructed its legal team to send a strongly worded letter to its larger rival Harvey's Furniture over the launch of its new 'Raft' range.

Harvey's, known for its high profile sponsorship of ITV's flagship soap Coronation Street, has launched a product range with a similar design and using the distinctive grey-coloured background and font of the Raft Furniture branding. The Raft name has been trademarked by the London-based SME retailer and it believes Harvey's has copied its designs.

Mick Quinn, founder of Raft Furniture, told the Daily Telegraph that he was first made aware of the range when a "confused" franchisee contacted him to ask why he was suppyling a major manufacturer like Harvey's. Raft works on an SME franchisor model and has a strong environmental policy. Raft's ethos is to only source reclaimed teak from Forest Stewardship Council woodland to create its furniture, a CSR commitment which Harvey's does not adhere to.

A spokeswoman for the Intellectual Property Office said that most design patents "can be registered using clever wordings around the materials used, the way in which the design is made and sourced". Harvey's is part of the South African-based Steinhoff International conglomerate, which also owns household goods store Cargo, and posted income of £403m from its UK interests in 2011.

A Raft spokesman confirmed to AOL Money that "our legal team are in contact with Harvey's" but could not comment further. Both Harvey's and Steinhoff International were contacted but unavailable to comment on the case.

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