According to Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd, the company set up in Halifax in 1935 by Percy Shaw, the term Catseye remains its protected brand name. To Highways England, however, it appears to mean any old light-reflecting road stud.
Highways England has issued a contract for the installation of 170 LED roads studs at Switch Island in Merseyside, where the M57, M58 and 3 A roads all join together.
The LED road studs light up when traffic lights turn green so drivers can clearly see which lane they should follow. Cables under the road surface connect them to traffic lights through a nearby automatic controller unit. Similar LED studs are also in the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey.
The new intelligent studs that are being installed at Switch Island were designed by Oxfordshire-based company Clearview Intelligence.
William Dunn, director of Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd, said: “Catseye or any derivative such as ‘cats eyes’ is a trademark of our company and it is a breach of our trademark rights to use this when describing Roadstuds in general. We will be contacting Highways England.”
A spokesman for the government’s Intellectual Property Office confirmed: “It has been a registered trademark since 1938.”
Highways England is not the only government organisation to confuse protected brand names with generic terms recently. In December 2017 the Health & Safety Executive had to re-write a press release that it had already issued when it incorrectly used the word ‘HIAB’ as a synonym for a folding lorry-loader crane. In fact Hiab is the name of the Swedish manufacturer, now part of the Cargotec group, which pioneered the knuckle-boom loader crane concept. Just as not all vacuum cleaners are Hoovers and not all site huts are Portakabins, not all loader cranes are Hiabs. In the HSE’s case, the crane concerned (reported on because it had hit an overhead power line, resulting in the death of the operator) had not been made by Hiab but by another manufacturer.