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Watson Burton is fighting a pro bono IP battle on behalf of one of the UK's largest fair trade organisations.
The row concerns a trademark application covering the word 'kikoy', an English corruption of the Kiswahili word 'kikoi', which refers to the distinctive wrap skirts worn on the East African coast.
The Newcastle-based firm is representing Traidcraft Exchange, the charity arm of trading company and development charity Traidcraft, against the UK-based Kikoy Company, which is seeking sole commercial rights to the term.
Watson Burton IP solicitor Matthew Rippon said that, if the trademark application is granted, it "will make it impossible for Kenyan traders to export to this valuable market" and that this was "neither right nor fair".
Rippon became involved after he was contacted by attorneys from Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors, a not-for-profit organisation that defends the IP interests of developing countries.
Kikoy Company's trademark application was filed by Niall Head-Rapson of Newcastle firm McDaniel & Co, who was formerly a partner at Watson Burton's local rival Ward Hadaway.