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Gay Pride director wins battle over word 'queer' Ex-Take That manager sued Birmingham club owner over use of word.

Byline: Enda Mullen Legal Correspondent enda.mullen@trinitymirror.com

THE director of Birmingham's Pride festival has won a court battle with the founder of Take That after a bitter row over use of the word "queer".

Entrepreneur Lawrence Barton was taken to court by Nigel Martin-Smith, whose company owned a nightspot in Manchester called "Bar Queer", over claims a venue set up in Birmingham called "Queer Street" was an infringement of its trademark.

Mr Barton and his business partner and brother Darren, opened Queer Street in Birmingham's gay village two years ago.

The brothers, whose family business owns a host of venues in Birmingham's gay village, including the iconic Nightingale club, got embroiled in the legal battle after Mr Martin-Smith took exception to its name.

He took The Nightingale Group, owned by the Barton brothers, to court for damages for infringement on the word 'queer' as their trademark.

Despite the then owner Bar Queer Ltd going into liquidation in July 2013 the claim was assigned to NMSM Group, which had become the new owner of Manchester's Queer Bar.

Representing The Nightingale Group, Birmingham solicitors Sydney Mitchell took the case to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, which found that NMSM did not have a proper legal basis for the lawsuit.

His Honour Judge Hacon also ruled that even if it did have suffi-cient cause, the claim would have still failed.

The Bartons were also awarded an undisclosed five-figure payout towards their costs.

Lawrence Barton said he was "elated" at the outcome and relieved it was over.

He said: "The bar and brand in Manchester was so distinctly different to ours in its concept and branding.

"Were hordes of people from Manchester going to come in and say they were confused about the branding? It was really quite absurd in my view.

"I also thought what gives someone the right to have autonomy over the word 'queer'? Back in the nineties the Nightingale had a night called 'Queer'."

Ironically Queer Street closed its doors during the time the case ran its course, though Mr Barton said that was a commercial decision and in its place they had opened RSVP, a private hire venue for upmarket parties and functions.

He said: "We closed it as it was failing in that guise and rebranded it to go to the wider community.

"Although our approach has always been to be inclusive, with Queer Street we had been attempting to do something that was more reclaimed for the LGBT community - to say this is a gay space. I felt we had to rebrand it and open it up to other communities."

Despite the battle Mr Barton said he had no ill feelings towards Mr Martin-Smith.

He added: "I have nothing against man personally. Around the mid-nineties he was someone who had a very high profile. He was probably the Simon Cowell of his day.

"In addition I like the gay scene in Manchester and use it as a city with my friends. I wouldn't want to create any issue between Birmingham and Manchester." Mr Martin-Smith is still involved with several business and a number of venues in Manchester's gay village.

He famously founded Take That in 1989 after being inspired by the success of the US band New Kids on the Block.

Mr Barton said he had not ruled out the idea of Queer Street reopening in some form, either in Birmingham or another city.

"Never say never, if we wanted to use Queer Street again we would use it," he said. "We have kept the design and branding, it just wasn't appropriate for that moment in time. I wouldn't be averse to using it again."

I thought what gives someone the right to have autonomy over the word 'queer'? Lawrence Barton

CAPTION(S):

Nigel Martin-Smith

Lawrence Barton, of Gay Pride

The Queer Street venue in Hurst Street. It later changed its name but the battle to use the word Queer continued
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 27, 2014
Words:656
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