Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Merchandise Marks Act of 1887

Now is when we return to the legislation that Bass took great advantage of: the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887.

It replaced a similarly-named Act of 1862. I suppose it must have been deficient in some respect, otherwise why go to the trouble of passing a new act?

Note the very appropriate name of Bass's legal representative.


At the City of York Guild Hall on Wednesday, the 22nd inst., before a full beach of Magistrates, Mr Joseph Halliwell, of 41 Skeldergate, York, bottled beer and porter merchant, was charged with having on the 18th November last, at the said city, a certain trade mark, the property of Bass, Ratcliffe, and Gretton, Limited, and without the assent of the said company did unlawfully, falsely, and deceitfully apply, and sell with the said trade mark so falsely applied, twelve bottles of beer, then and thereby unlawfully, falsely, and deceitfully representing that the beer contained in the said bottles was of the manufacture of the said Bass, Ratcliff, and Gretton, Limited. The defendant was represented by Mr Haliday Smith, solicitor, of York. Mr George Burton (Jennings, Son, and Burton), solicitor, Burton-on-Trent, who appeared to conduct the case on behalf of Messrs Bass and Co., stated that this was the first prosecution of the kind under the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, in the reparation of certain clauses of which he had the honour of making certain suggestions which had been adopted and now formed a part of the Act which repealed the Merchandise Marks Act, 1862, under which he had conducted numerous prosecutions to success on behalf of his clients in different parts of the country. The present procredings were taken under section 2 of the new Act. which, on conviction or indictment, rendered a defendant liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for not exceeding two years, or, on summary conviction, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for not Lexceediug four months, or to a fine not exceeding £20 for a first offence, while the defendant had the frignt before the charge was gone into to elect to be tried on indictment. The defendant's solicitor having stated that he was willing for the case to be dealt with summarily, Mr Burton proceeded to say that he was in a position to prove, beyond all question of doubt, that the defendant was guilty of the offence charged in the summons, and was about to do so when the defendant's solicitor said the defendant would plead guilty to the charge, and that he was instructed to express to the Court, and to Messrs Bass and Co., the defendant's unfeigned regret for what had been done. As defendant had an hotel in another part of the City his time was necessarily divided, and although he was not personally cognizant of the spurious beer having been put into the bottles with Messrs Bass and Co.'s labels applied, yet he was undoubtedly liable for the consequences. The Bench said the charge was definite, and clearly stated in the information, and I asked whether or not the defendant pleaded guilty. Mr Haliday Smith-Yes; I am bound to admit the offence, but I was about to say - Mr Burton-The defendant must either admit the offence without qualification or I shall at once put the witnesses into the box and prove the case conclusively. Mr Haliday Smith - I am sure my friend here would not say as a much unless he could so. I do not think I ought to occupy the time of the Magistrates unnecessarily, and therefore I candidly admit the offence, and on behalf of the defendant I offer his sincere apology to Messrs. Bass and Co., and am prepared to submit to the judgment of the Court. Mr Burton - As the defendant has pleaded guilty and made the apology in Court, I beg to be permitted to say that my clients have no vindictive feelings in the matter, but they felt bound in their own interests, as well as in the interests of the general public, to take these proceedings. The Bench - This is, we understand, the first case of the kind in York ? Mr Burton - It is, I and I hope it will go forth to all dealers in bottled beer that my clients are determined to protect their trade mark, and that if any case of the kind should occur again I shall feel bound to press for severe punishment. The Bench - The public ought to get a what the label is a guarantee of-the genuine beer of Messrs Bass. Mr Burton - Undoubtedly, and it is a fraud upon the public if they do not. The Magistrates, after having consulted together, fined the defendant in the mitigated penalty of £5 and costs, making together £14 9s 3d. Mr Haliday Smith - I am much obliged to Messrs Bass and Co. for their leniency in the matter, and to my friend Mr Burton for the favourable manner he has dealt with the case."
Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 28 December 1887, page 7.
Two years hard labour? I think I'd plead guilty and apologise if it got me out of being banged up for two years.

So they'd let Bass's legal man help write the legislation. I can't imagine he'd have wanted to make it more difficult to prosecute fraudsters. Were they the only interestd parties to have a say? They couldn't have been the only ones to have their products counterfeited. Funny thing is, I can't remember seeing any prosecutions by  Allsopp or Guinness, owners of the two next most famous brands.

Talking of brands and Bass, what an absolute scandal that such a prestigious and universally known brand should have been run into the ground by its owners over the last 50 years. What does that tell us about postwar British brewing?


Ed said...

Bass has recently appeared in my local Sainsbury's so they must be pushing it a bit now.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, the current keg Bass in Canada is brewed locally under license. It has a fairly complex taste, one that I've never really liked but it is so particular that one has to assume it has some antiquity to it. I like to reacquaint with it from time to time. It's a caramel/appley/oaky taste.

Bottled Bass in the U.S., now brewed in New York State, is similar. The English import we used to get, despite all the hueing and crying about domestic licensing arrangements, was about the same, but less fresh.

Now to the draught: I've had it occasionally in England over the years and the keg is not that distant from it except you get the big Burton sulphury notes in it, similar to a lot of German and Euro lager (what some people call grassy, it's not the hops it's the sulphides from lager yeast). Why Burton beer or a lot of it shared this characteristic, I don't know, but it does. Likely however the cause of it is different for Burton than Munich.

You need to visit The Ship for the best Bass Draught in London:

The pub specializes in it and it won't be better elsewhere.


StuartP said...

The same has happened to several great UK companies over the years: 'managed' out of existence, often in the interest of 'maximising shareholder value'.
Knighthoods were earned by sending ICI down the toilet.

If someone else put their beer in a bass bottle there days, you'd be pleased.