Government has been accused of peTTy heavy-handedness after a store was ordered to remove TT T-shirts from sale.

Trading standards officers, acting on a tip-off, called in to Looneys of Ramsey on Tuesday to advise that the T-shirts bearing the legend ’If you want me to listen…talk about the TT’ were an unauthorised use of a trademark.

Looneys later said that having taken advice they had put the T-shirts back on sale.

The politician in charge of motorsport said this was about protecting revenue streams and a six-figure exclusive contract with a T-shirt supplier.

Looneys posted on Tuesday: ’We’ve just had to remove all our new festival T-shirts from sale at the request of trading standards who say it breaches the copyright holder’s rights.

’This is my silly mistake, assuming that it applied to phrases such as “Isle of Man TT” and “TT Races” but no, apparently they’ve got the letters T and T together as well.’

Looneys said the T-shirts were a small way of making up for TT being the worst week of their trading year.

’Don’t assume everyone benefits from TT. Lots of small businesses lose out but we love it and it makes other sectors’ years, so we put up with it.

’We’ll be a bit more clever in future, as I’m not confident a T-shirt design will gain approval from the copyright holders but we’ll give it a go, otherwise these are destined for charity (unless that breaches it too).’

But yesterday, the store posted an update: ’Having taken advice these T-shirts are back on sale. Thank you to everyone for the support shown overnight. I haven’t been able to keep up with all the messages.’

Rob Callister, political member at the Department for Enterprise with responsibility for motorsport, denied the government was being heavy-handed.

He said: ’I would always encourage people who have an idea about TT merchandise to contact DfE motorsport in the first instance to make sure they don’t infringe any trademarks.

’As a department we want to be seen as approachable. We want to help people. But we also have a duty to protect revenue streams.

’Our job is to raise income. The cost of the event is increasing year on year. We are raising over £3m on income that goes directly back into the event.

’The letters TT are protected.

’This comes down to the fact that we have an exclusive partnership with a company that pays a six-figure sum to produce TT T-shirts.

’Either we get income which reduces the taxpayers’ bill or we allow a free for all. That’s the problem we face here.’

John Peet, head of OFT, said: ’It was reported to us that Looneys was offering for sale T-shirts with the words TT which are a registered trademark.

’Unauthorised use of a trademark is an offence under the Trademark Act. We went to see how serious the offence was. It was dealt with, we thought, in a proportionate way. It would appear to have been a genuine mistake. There was not a substantial number of T-shirts and we asked Looneys to take them down. We don’t want to get traders into trouble.’

This is not the first time that the government has been embroiled in a trademark row.

In 2017, the Manx Crafter gift shop on King Street in Douglas was ordered to remove items using the TT logo and the then Department of Economic Development came under fire for charging the RNLI to use the TT logo on its pin badges.

The department also ended up on collision course with Bushy’s over the use of the TT letters on the brewery’s T-shirts and stickers. Bushy’s sought legal advice after it pointed out it had registered ’Bushy’s TT’ as a trademark in November 2014.

Charities are not charged for using the TT trademark.

The restrictions on the use of the letters ’TT’ apply when there is a clear attempt to associate them with the actual event.

Source: IoMToday