The owners of a shop set up to help fight homelessness say they have been threatened by Amazon’s lawyers over a ‘smile logo.’
Chris Lee and Polly Reehal, who have slept rough themselves, were due to open Amaze in Malvern, Worcestershire this Saturday.
But the duo say they have been stopped by an eleventh hour letter from the online giant’s legal team over their logo.
It raises concerns that Amaze’s ‘use of Amazon’s trademarks’ would ‘confuse consumers’ and insisted the signage must be changed.
Mr Lee and Ms Reehal have endured months of gruelling work and setbacks due to the Covid pandemic to get the store ready.
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And they say this latest hurdle is “beyond belief” – as it has come from the “richest man in the world”.
Mr Lee said: “We have been working so hard for months collecting donations from some amazingly generous people and now days before we are due to open the shop Amazon is trying to stop us.
“The richest man in the world has instructed his lawyers to stop us smiling just days before we open on Saturday – it’s beyond belief.”
Legal firm Morgan Lewis, which represents Amazon, said it was unable discuss or comment on any legal matters regarding the company.
In a letter to Mr Lee, Morgan Lewis said Amazon was concerned that use of its trademarks, in particular the use of the ‘smile logo’, would confuse consumers into believing the shop was connected with or endorsed by Amazon, when this was not the case.
The letter asked Mr Lee to adopt a new logo that does not include the ‘smile logo’ and is not in any other way similar to Amazon’s trademarks, adding that Amazon had no objection to the use of the name Amaze.
Amazon itself pledged to contact Mr Lee with a view to making a donation and/or discussing how it could help further, but added that no statement could be provided due to the legalities of the trademark matter.
Mr Lee and Ms Reehal found themselves homeless in the run-up to Christmas 2016.
Mr Lee lost everything he owned and had to walk out of his five-bedroom home in Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, and they ended up sleeping in his car.
After getting back on their feet, with the help of kind strangers who offered them a shed to sleep in, the family have dedicated themselves to helping others facing homelessness.
They set up a community interest company (CIC) called Let’s Make A Change, offering discount voucher schemes and programmes which sponsor homeless people in finding employment.
The Worcester Road shop’s grand opening event on Saturday will still go ahead, but the smile icon will be removed to appease Amazon.
There will be live music throughout the day, stilt men, and free ice cream for everybody who visits the shop.
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All money raised at the shop will go to Let’s Make A Change CIC.
Ms Reehal said: “This is no ordinary charity shop.
“There are no old clothes, shoes or bedding, only quality furniture, pictures and ornaments together with a large range of home crafted items on sale.”
Mr Lee added: “We were homeless, we lost everything.
“It’s only when you’ve got personal experience of being homeless that you realise just how bad it is. You realise just how much of a hill you have to climb.
“People are so generous in dropping a quid in a hat. That helps but it doesn’t build a future. When you’re homeless you need to have a means to get a job and build your confidence.
“We provide employment for people in need and give them the opportunity to earn a living wage.
“We even have a workshop at the back of the shop so customers can see our special craft items being made.
“The shop has been supported by over 17 volunteers who have offered their help for this worthy cause.
“It’s just been amazing the number of kind people in Worcestershire that have come in to assist us in this project.”