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Dispute between charity and cartoonist over 'BloodRunners' name

National Association of Blood Bikes requests royalties after trademarking 30-year-old cartoon name

A charity who trademarked a name used by a cartoonist for 30 years has now asked for payment from the artist.

Cartoonist Andy Sparrow has been told he must take down his website and stop selling T-shirts with ‘BloodRunners’ printed on them, even though he coined the phrase decades before the charity was formed.

The charity, the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB), which delivers blood to hospitals, trademarked the name ‘Blood Runners’ in 2010. Sparrow has been using it on cartoons since 1983.

Sparrow wrote an email to NABB asking if they would be interested in purchasing any of his t-shirts at a discounted rate. Gordon Downie, in charge of marketing for the charity, replied to Sparrow explaining they now owned the trademark 'so technically you can't sell t-shirts using that name. Happy to discuss a royalty deal or if that's going to prove complicated a one off fee would work just as well, any monies we receive will go to the blood bike charities.'

Sparrow then posted the exchange of emails on both his Bloodrunners and private Facebook page

Read the full email transcript below:

Andy: Hi! My name's Andy Sparrow. I coined the term Bloodrunners for my? fictional heroes who did what you guys now do for real. Awesome!? Just to say I've brought back my original Bloodrunners Logo design on? Hanes T-shirts. I'm selling them on my website individually, but if you'd ?like to buy a few I can do you a good deal. The more you order, the? cheaper they get! ?AndySparrow

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Gordon: Hi Andy

I'm following up on your email to Midland Freewheelers (below), you may remember me - we exchanged a few emails when we registered the trademark 'bloodrunners' for clothing. Do you recall? At that time you were going to transfer the Bloodrunners domain to us but that kind of fell apart.

Anyway, things have moved on (as they do) but we do now own the trademark so technically you can't sell t-shirts using that name.

Happy to discuss a royalty deal or if that's going to prove complicated a one off fee would work just as well, any monies we receive will go to the blood bike charities.

Let me know how you want to proceed.

Best regards

Gordon

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Andy: I’ve been selling Bloodrunners clothing for the past 30 years Gordon. So you’re a bit late.

Everyone knows I coined the term, which you have seconded.

You can try and stop me now but I think you’ll do yourself more harm than good.

Social media is a powerful thing... I shall also take down the website I built for you at www.bloodrunners.co.uk

Thanks. AndySparrow

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Gordon: What are you being like that for, who was looking for a fight? Not me. And I don't appreciate your threats either. You should take down the website.

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Andy: What am I being like that for? Because you just told me you’ve registered MY name and that I cannot sell T-shirts with MY name on them.

You weren’t looking for a fight? So you were looking to extort me?

If you want to take this further go ahead. No judge would side with your ‘registration’ when I can prove I’ve been in business since 1983. I’ll make sure you spend a lot of money on lawyers first though.

They aren’t threats, I’ve already started. I will take down the website, eventually... after publishing your emails on it...

Want to retract? or shall we go for it?

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Gordon Downie has since replied with an apology saying:  I do apologise – I acted stupidly, without thinking. I wasn’t criticising your posts – or the posts of others, merely trying to point out that my actions shouldn’t reflect badly on the wider blood bike community.

I made a mistake – god knows we all do that – and I know I made a mistake. I handled it badly – ignorant of your history with the cartoon strip, I don’t mind taking the flak, stand up and be counted and all that - but I don’t want to hurt the blood bike cause because of my email to you.

It was late, I annoyed you (and you were right to be annoyed) and I acted without thinking - but I retract my email fully and without reservation. And just to set the record straight – fully acknowledge your rights to ‘blood runners’ without reservation.

Best regards

Gordon

Sparrow later made another post on his Facebook page clarifying the background to the saga, explaining: 'My original offer to all the Blood Bikers was to sell them BLOODRUNNERS LOGO T-Shirts at a cut price, so they could sell them on & make a profit. Gordon wasn't aware of BLOODRUNNERS in Bike magazine; he wasn't aware that when I came up with the idea there were NO blood bikers. Neither was he aware that when they did become real, they called themselves Bloodrunners and wore my T-Shirts en masse. Gordon asked me to give him bloodrunners.co.uk, I built him a website; Gordon registered MY name, then tried to sell T-Shirts with Blood Runners on them, I said nothing; Why? Because I love the Blood Runners! They ARE the knights of the Road! They give GLAMOUR to despatch riding, & give good PR to Bikers in general. The whole country should have Blood Runners! The whole world!'

Visordown has asked the charity for a comment.

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