12 March 2009

Felix NOT the cat

It's a sad day for one of the Midlands' longest-established independent bus and coach operators, Felix of Ilkeston, who has been forced to remove the black cat image from the sides of its vehicles following the threat of legal action.

Founded in 1922, the family-owned business has been using the black cat figure in tandem with its fleet name for the last decade; in fact, it was as a result of the company's name that the erstwhile Ilkeston-Derby service was renamed from Service 12 to the Black Cat. Not being one to shy away from a unique bus route name like this, Trent Buses came on board, happily re-branding all its buses with the same name.

Two years ago, Felix received notification from USA-based Felix the Cat Creations Inc. stating that they were using a cat design identical to that which they have copyright of. This saw the black cat figure be modified so that it bore little resemblance to the original, but it was quite obviously still a black cat. It is this modified black cat figure that can be seen on the sides of the model of one company's Iveco/Plaxton coaches.

During January, the company revealed that it was contacted again by Felix the Cat Creations Inc., this time threatening legal action if they did not remove the cat emblem from all its vehicles and publicity. The US multi-national asserted that it owns the world copyright and trade mark for *any* feline image used with the name Felix.

In a small piece featured in this month's BUSES, Felix's manager Ian Middupp explained that while Felix Inc. has not provided any information to back-up its claim, the company does not have the resources to fight the case in court, so has - begrudgingly - removed all signs of the black cat figure from all its fleet and publicity.

This seems to have extended to its website, where a gold letter F seems to be the replacement emblem for the black cat.

The new-style Felix fleet name, using the 'F' rather than a black cat

As for the Black Cat bus route, Felix continue to use same figure as that used by Trent Barton, though with the Felix fleet name at the very front of the bus, nowhere near the figure itself.

Both Felix & Trent Barton use this black cat figure on their jointly-operated Black Cat service, though Felix face legal action if they place it next to their fleet name as it constitutes a 'feline figure'.

In an interesting move, Felix has recently painted their low-floor Scania L94/Wright bus allocated to their other joint service with Trent Barton, the Ilkeston Flyer, in the same livery as the latter - something Trent Barton have done with other operators in the past; most intriguingly though, Felix has allowed the Trent Barton bow emblem to be recreated on its vehicles.

Trent Barton's bow emblem - resembling that of something Robin Hood would have used, had he not been a mythical being - is clearly on display here, stuck to the side of the Scania Felix allocate to their joint Ilkeston Flyer service.

It seems a little ironic that, presumably as a result of the terms of Trent Barton's Ilkeston Flyer livery, any copy needs to be identical - including a trade mark bow emblem of another company, and yet woe betide anyone who places *any* feline image used alongside the word Felix. (GL)