You're not the Ritz… WE'RE the Ritz! London landmark orders rural minnow to change nameThe Ritz conference centre is in rural Desborough, NorthamptonshireIt has borne the name 'The Ritz' in the small town for over 80 years
Cost per head for entire wedding there is cheaper than Ritz afternoon tea
Afternoon tea at Ritz London 'costs more per head than wedding' in centreRitz Hotel: '[We] cannot allow [our] trademarks to be used without consent'Owner Kris Malde slams Ritz Hotel for using 'sledgehammer to crack a nut'
22:28 GMT, 21 December 2012
One is a byword for luxury, not to mention the favoured hotel of celebrities and royalty, dominating one of the most expensive areas of London.
The other is a low-budget wedding and conference venue in an unassuming Northamptonshire market town.
But now The Ritz in Desborough has become embroiled in a David and Goliath legal battle with its famous Piccadilly namesake.
Not so salubrious: The Ritz, in Desborough, Northamptonshire, has held its name for over 80 years
Historic: The Ritz Hotel was opened by Cesar Ritz in 1906. The building is neoclassical in the Louis XVI manner, built during the Belle poque to resemble a stylish Parisian block of flats, over arcades that consciously evoked the Rue de Rivoli
Lawyers acting on behalf of the London
hotel have written to Kris Malde, owner of the Desborough Ritz, warning
him that if he does not change the name of his small business he will
be taken to court for trademark infringement.
Yesterday Mr Malde accused the London
hotel, which had a turnover of 32.3million last year, of ‘using a
sledgehammer to crack a nut’, and said it would ruin him to fight it in
Mr Malde said Desborough’s Ritz, which
has stood for more than 80 years, poses little competition to the
capital’s – especially as afternoon tea at the London venue costs guests
more than he charges per person for an entire wedding meal.
The 43-year-old said: ‘When I opened the letter I thought it was a joke. I could not believe my eyes.
‘What kind of competition do they think we might pose to The Ritz in London
Tough times: Mr Malde said his is a small family business, 'trading in difficult times and running a conference centre in a rural community in Northamptonshire'
Inside the Ritz Desborough: Mr Malde, who even owns the rights to the website www.theritz.co.uk, now fears his wedding and conference venue will suffer as a result and accused the hotel of using 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut'
Quite a difference: Owner Mr Malde claims that Desborough's Ritz poses little competition to the capital's – especially as afternoon tea at the London venue costs more per head than an entire wedding at his
Five-star fancy: The 106-year-old Ritz Hotel, on London's Piccadilly, claims Desborough entrepreneur Kris Malde stole its trademark
‘We operate in completely different
markets. They serve the rich and famous, we serve a largely local
clientele who just want good food and facilities at a good price.
‘But even if we took this to court and won, the costs would kill us.’
In a letter to the wedding venue,
lawyers argued that The Ritz name was synonymous with excellence in
hotel and restaurant services, and gave Mr Malde a deadline of 4pm on
December 19 to agree to a name change. This has since been extended,
although a deadline has yet to be set.
London law firm Ashurst, representing
Ritz owners Ellerman Investments Limited, said: ‘Our clients are
concerned to discover that you are using the domain name in connection
with a business which appears to be trading as “The Ritz” and offering
banqueting and conference services.
‘As you are no doubt aware, The Ritz
Hotel was opened by Cesar Ritz in 1906, and since then its owners have
built up a very substantial reputation and goodwill throughout the
world. As with any valuable property, our clients cannot allow their
trademarks to be used without consent.’
Fighting talk: Lawyers for the Ritz Hotel in London said its owners 'have built up a very substantial reputation and good will throughout the world in The Ritz Hotel and the Ritz name in connection with hotel'
The letter adds that Ellerman takes any infringement of its valuable intellectual property rights ‘extremely seriously’.
Mr Malde said his Ritz was founded in
the Thirties as a cinema, then became a ballroom before falling into
disrepair. It was always called The Ritz.
He added: ‘We are a small family
business trading in difficult times and running a conference centre in
Northamptonshire. We do not even have rooms for guests to stay in and
people cannot just wander in off the street for a drink or a meal. Our
venue is simply hired out for events.’
Mr Malde bought the building, which had been derelict for five years two years ago and spent 800,000 refurbishing it.
It caters for 250 to 600 guests and costs 3,000 to hire for 12 hours.
He opened it as a wedding and
conference venue in November last year. That, and his use of the domain
name www.theritzuk.co.uk, seems to have triggered Ellerman’s interest in
Stephen Boxall, managing director of
The Ritz in London, said it was simply defending ‘its reputation in
order to maintain the quality of the brand’.