BT and Standard Life in hand to hand combat

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The Independent Online
IT'S NOT EASY being an advertising executive in 1998. Use what you think is a universal symbol to promote a client's product, and up pops a dour Scottish bank to call you a copycat.

Standard Life Bank yesterday accused BT of pinching its corporate image - a picture of a hand bent as if to make a telephone call.

The bank, which was launched using exactly this logo on 5 January, said BT's "Good Vibrations" TV ad, which features happy telephone customers sticking out their thumbs and little fingers, was a copy of its own promotion. "We are slightly bemused that BT have felt the need to copy our 'hand phone' logo, although we understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery," said Jim Spowart, managing director.

He says his logo was designed by The Union, an Edinburgh-based advertising agency, and is "an integral part of the bank's identity and its advertising". Standard Life Bank had spent more than pounds 2m promoting the brand only to find that Abbott Mead Vickers, the UK's largest advertiser, had used the logo for its BT campaign, he said.

"We are disappointed that one of the UK's largest advertisers, using one of the UK's largest advertising companies, has decided to use this device, especially as we have been using it continuously in print advertising since the bank's successful launch," said Mr Spowart.

A BT spokeswoman said: "We would strongly object to any suggestion that we have infringed their rights. It's a universal symbol for operating your phone. We don't think it could conceivably belong to any one individual."

The symbol was used in 1991 by BT in a short-running TV campaign. But Standard Life Bank insist they are the proprietor, applying in October to use the hand-phone logo as a trademark.