Bunhill: Haway game shocks Geordies

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The Independent Online
THERE was a glorious moment in the first-ever episode of Spender, Jimmy Nail's Geordie detective drama, when the hero returns to Newcastle after a long time away to find his once-gritty area overrun by patisseries, French restaurants and all manner of effete European emporia. "It's been croissanted," he explains to a colleague.

Now, as he's no doubt aware, Newcastle has been patented - and by a company whose territorial ambitions, while fiercer than those of your average brioche, remain stubbornly half-baked.

Newcastle United used to be a football club but has transformed itself into a public- relations disaster with more negative press coverage than any other company in the first three months of 1998, according to the latest issue of The PressWatch Quarterly. The cause of most of this were the two directors who allegedly made insulting comments about the club's fans and the womenfolk of Tyneside. The directors have since departed, followed by two others after a boardroom split last week, but the own goals continue because the company reportedly plans to register the old North-east battle cry "Haway the Lads" as a trademark.

Such a move would be highly provocative, of course, seeing as the exhortation belongs not to the club but the region in general - even Sunderland fans sing "Haway the Lads". Newcastle's director of legal affairs would not confirm or deny the story, saying that the club was constantly exploring the possibilities either for registering new trademarks or objecting to patent applications lodged by other parties. Meanwhile, Geoff Sargant, the director of marketing at the Patent Office, said no applications for "Haway the Lads" had been received. If one were, he added, "I can guarantee it will have an interesting life."

Just how interesting can be gauged by the fate of "Toon Army", another terrace anthem which Newcastle wishes to monopolise so that any money from merchandise bearing the slogan will pass to the club and not independent vendors. It has succeeded in registering one "Toon Army" trademark - for printed matter, publications and posters - but another, for shirts, hats and scarves, is still pending. The opposition to this one has been so intense, says Mr Sargant, that the legal wrangles still continue

The Patent Office has more than 400,000 trademarks on its books and, adds Mr Sargant, usually even the most contentious patent applications will have had their fates decided in seven months at the outside. So this might seem like a romantic victory for the persevering people of the North-east over the get-rich-quick antics of a corporation. Perhaps it will be, but should Newcastle United ever succeed in reserving all the rights to "Toon Army", it will be able to sue "pirate" vendors retrospectively from the date of the initial application. Be wary, then, if you hear any of the club's directors singing "fog on the Tyne is all mine all mine"; they might really mean it.

THERE is a set etiquette for smokers who are afraid to indulge their habit during social or business functions: pray to God that someone else will light up so you can follow suit.

Thus it was during an emerging-markets conference hosted by Foreign & Colonial last week. The meeting had been going on for a withdrawal-symptom- inducing one-and-a- half hours when at last one man summoned the courage to light up ... and sparked a stampede of smokers out of the closet. Well, if the Governor of the Bank of England wants a fag, why shouldn't anyone else?

Driving ambitions

THE ROAD to convenience banking has taken another turn following Barclays' decision to conduct live trials for a "drive-thru" cash machine located near Heathrow Airport. The machine works in the same way as normal cashpoints except that motorists will be able to conduct the transaction without getting out of their car. The service, says Barclays, will be particularly useful for parents with young children who find it a problem both to visit a cashpoint and park legally somewhere nearby.

And indeed it is a problem, in much the same way as it's a problem to spend the money you've just withdrawn as you drag your kids round the supermarket, pharmacy, clothes shop or barber. So far, alas, the drive- thru hairdresser and drive-thru changing-room haven't been invented - and neither, more pressingly for parents, has the drive-thru public convenience.

However, there may well be a demand for Barclays' innovation among customers who plan to stay on the road after taking out their money. More contentious is the bank's claim that the drive-thru cashpoint is the first of its kind in Britain; if my memory serves, it has already been piloted by ram raiders.

SAATCHI & SAATCHI is an "ideas company". I know that because it told me so in the kind of sinister voice that blackmailers, murderers and other advertising folk use to distort phone messages. For one of Saatchi's ideas has been to bring out the first "talking" annual report. Just flip over the cover to the first inside spread and you'll activate a battery- powered recording which gives you a full run-down of the company's philosophy. I'd have liked to have transcribed the entire message but unfortunately, a bit like Saatchi's famous anti-Labour election posters, it isn't working anymore.

Clients' interest

A READER who wanted to telegraphic-transfer pounds 113,000 to his solicitor on 1 June was told by his bank, First Direct, that the money would be taken out of his savings account on 27 May. He rang back to ask why it took so long to do a TT.

The reply given was that it was being done by ordinary transfer to save him the pounds 20 charge for a TT. He asked: "How much interest am I losing by doing it that way?" The answer was pounds 69.