Catherine Boakye is a UK born Ghanian and the founder of Mangotree Kids. This is her story in her own words. In 2020 I found myself in a trademark battle with the retail fashion giant MANGO. In life nobody likes the feeling of being bullied or being made to feel insignificant that you don’t have the right to co-exist in the same space as others, but this is exactly how I was made to feel.
For over 20 years I have been running my business, Mangotree Kids, providing beautiful quality products that help teach young black children about their culture, to give them a greater sense of pride in themselves and for all children to love and respect diﬀerent cultures through a range of multicultural toys and educational resources.
Mangotree Kids is not a big high street brand like Mango, but it is a growing brand with a loyal customer base since 2001.
For many years as a single parent of two children l had juggled raising my children with a demanding job at British Airways and running the business. Then in 2020 as the world was gripped by the pandemic, I accepted redundancy from BA and like thousands of people I had to reassess my life.
As crazy as it may sound the imposed confinement of lockdown was a blessing in disguise as it forced me to focus entirely on the business. With both children in university, I felt it was now time to invested everything, all my time and finances into growing Mangotree Kids without any ‘mummy guilt’ holding me back.
A combination of events such as George Floyd’s death and the Black Pound Movement helped create a conscious awakening within the Black community which resulted in a huge increase in the demand for my products within the wider general public alongside schools, nurseries and hospitals.
With the growth in the brand, I took the decision to register Mangotree Kids as a trademark and it was at this point that the inconceivable happened. The process was halted by the retail giant Mango, who decided to contest the application, claiming that Mangotree Kids was too much like their Mango and Mango Kids; also that I was building the brand oﬀ the back of their well established, reputable brand and there would be a confusion in the minds of the average consumer between our brands.
I must confess, initially I was incredible intimidated and stressed by what I was facing and the financial burden was immense having to find thousands of pounds in legal fees. I couldn’t sleep worrying about how I was going to get through this but at the same time I had to tell myself that this was wrong. After all Mangotree Kids had been established before Mango Kids, so I had no choice but to fight back their actions, although legal, were not in my opinion justified. I felt like David getting ready to battle Goliath.
I tried to reach out to Mango through my lawyer on several occasions to come to an amicable agreement but they did not respond for over a year. In the meantime I had to spend valuable time away from running the business to build a case by gathering witness statements from customer and suppliers from the last 20 years.
In late 2021 Mango’s legal representative finally reached out to settle but their suggested terms where so unacceptable it was my belief, they wanted to stifle the growth of Mangotree Kids. I was left with no choice but to continue with the case.
On the 2nd of March 2022 the trademark case was heard. It lasted nearly 4 hours and at the end the adjudicator said he would deliberate on the case and inform both sides of his decision within two weeks.
It was a very tense wait which lasted nearly 3 weeks but on Tuesday 22nd of March 2022 the decision was announced, and after nearly two long years my lawyer informed me that I had WON the case in its entirety.
Mango had until the 19th April 2022 to appeal this decision. I cannot tell you the overwhelming sense of relief and sweet satisfaction that I felt. Not only for myself but also for other small business that are going through similar cases with big companies. I hope my story will inspire them to continue fighting their case.
Although I won my case in its entirety, I am still facing thousands of pounds worth of legal fees. But if you ask me, was it worth it, I would still say yes. What Mango forgets is, every big company started small. I believe in the importance of my products and have a clear vision for the Mangotree Kids brand and now not even Mango can stop this.