I got a letter from the Driving Standards Agency (the organisation that administers driving theory, hazard perception and practical tests) recently, addressed to
Andrew Steele and John Trevor-Allen
The Rest of Our Address.
Apart from not living in Horsland House (what are we, a brothel?), I’m also aware that myself and JTA have never had any joint dealings with the DSA. Except, perhaps, in that we wrote a mock driving theory test which can now be found on www.ktab.co.uk…
Intrigued, I opened it, and read it. Turns out they were accusing us of…
…an infringement of DSA’s rights contrary to Section 10 of the Trade Marks Act 1994, as well as…an infringment of [their] copyright contrary to Section 16 of the Copyrights Designs & Patents Act 1988…
…and unless we…
…confirm that the infringing logo has been removed from the spoof Theory Test by 22nd September 2005 and…agree not to make use of the DSA’s intellectual property rights in future…
…issue proceedings in court to prevent further infringement of [their] rights[.]
If you want, you can read the full letter. I’ve pixellated out our full address, the name of the official involved and, of course, the DSA logo, since not to do so would infringe on their copyright, again, and we wouldn’t want to do that…
I’d like to note at this point that, as well as mis-spelling my address atrociously, they also requested that we remove the offending image on September 22nd 2005—six days before the letter was sent (it’s dated 28th September) and eight days before we received it (on the 30th).
Through bizarre coincidence, JTA had popped home from Aberystwyth, where he’s been living pretty much all summer, on the day of receipt of this bizarre letter. So, rather than cracking open the time machine and screwing up causality, we made a trip to the pub, where we wrote an e-mail to ask them what the Hell was going on:
We are writing to you regarding a letter which we have received, ostensibly from your department, in connection with material on our website, www.ktab.co.uk.
However, certain aspects of the communication caused us to suspect that it may not have originated in your department, and may in fact be a spoof:
* The letter is addressed to "Horsland House", rather than our listed postal address, Aylesland House.
* It was sent second class, standard delivery, giving us and your department no way of proving that it has been received.
* The letter contained a request with which we were asked to comply by 22nd September 2005, some six days before it was sent (it was dated 28th September 2005) second class.
* The letter has no reference code for identification purposes, leaving us unable to specify the communication to which we refer.
We are concerned that someone is impersonating you and may be liable for prosecution, as they have made use of your registered trade marks in their letterhead.
Could you please confirm that you did not send this letter dated 28th September?
Andrew Steele & John Trevor-Allen.
It was only five working days before I received their response, which addressed only one of our questions, but, presumably, spared them a small amount of humiliation:
I confirm that the letter referred to in the email below was from DSA.
My apologies for the error regarding the date in the letter which you have quite rightly pointed out. This should have been 22nd October 2005; not 22nd September 2005.
I trust this has clarified the situation, and look forward to receiving confirmation from you by 22nd October 2005 that you have removed the offending logo from the website (www.ktab.co.uk); and that you agree to make no further use of DSA’s intellectual property rights.
So, we made a switch, replacing the DSA-logo-esque circley swooshes (see the logo at www.dsa.gov.uk) with more angular ones. However, they didn’t seem happy with that, either:
I have had a look at the revised logo you are displaying on the mock Theory Test section of www.ktab.co.uk and do not find the logo acceptable given the use of colour and style.
It appears they wished to crush all possibility of satire from the logo, making it entirely un-DSA-like, so I e-mailed them to ask how exactly we could make the logo acceptable. After the four working hours it took for the last response, I was hoping for something a little hasty, but what I got was not just later, but more vicious than expected:
Re: Use of Intellectual Property Rights owned by the Driving Standards Agency on your website ktab.co.uk
The revised logo currently displayed on your spoof Theory Test page on your website is still an infringement of DSA's intellectual property rights. The DSA object to the way you have used the colours orange and blue on your logo together with the overall look; and the way the logo is associated with the spoof Theory Test.
Road Safety is a matter taken very seriously by the DSA and you are clearly treating this serious subject as a light hearted one.
I am requesting that you remove the spoof Theory Test, including the logo, from your website www.ktab.co.uk. Please confirm you have removed these by 19th October 2005.
The DSA will issue court proceedings if this matter is not settled.
Particularly eloquent is the schoolteacher-like admonition that “Road Safety is a matter taken very seriously by the DSA and you are clearly treating this serious subject as a light hearted one. ” I would like to emphasise for anyone with so few brain cells that they don’t know what the “accelerator” does that it is not multi-car pile-ups that the test satirises, but the DSA’s stupid driving theory test.
However, the upgrade to “remove the whole damn thing”, even if apparently carefully-worded because there’s no way they can make us do that unless we’re somehow infringing upon their rights, was a turn up for the books.
So, we totally redesigned the logo; a completely new one was conceived of and working within about ten minutes, thanks to serendipity and Photoshop (I made some swirly text, highlighted it, and Clym, stood behind me, said “that looks just like a road!”…see the new logo for the conclusion of this escapade). Now featuring neither orange nor blue, no swirly swooshes nor any such thing, and therefore no intellectual property infringement, everyone was happy. Well, almost everyone. The DSA still weren’t.
I have had a look at the latest logo on your mock Theory Test on www.ktab.co.uk.
I agree that the amended logo no longer resembles the official DSA registered logo in terms of colour or style. However, I think you are missing the point that you have taken a serious subject matter, Road Safety, and used it in an inappropriate way by putting a sarcastic slant on the Theory Test. The official DSA Theory Test is in place to ensure people have sound theory knowledge of road safety contributing along with the Practical Test to them being a safe driver.
I must stress that DSA do not approve of or endorse your ‘Mock Theory Test’ in any way.
Which is pretty good, because the whole reason that we made the theory test in the first place is that we didn’t approve of or endorse their absurd-waste-of-time-and-money test, either. I think that the main reason they’re not happy is that we’ve made them look stupid and they have no legal recourse under these circumstances. Don’t you just love democracy?
I for one am extremely glad that my taxes are being spent chasing up charlatans and scoundrels like myself and JTA. The World is now a safer place, the DSA is no longer defamed by our satirical besmirching of their fine logo, and everyone can sleep safely knowing that, though our orange and blue curvy logo was easily confused with the DSA’s official one, the all-new black-and-green-and-white curvy-road version is totally free of such ambiguity. Through this wholesale crushing of satire, the DSA has truly come a step closer to achieving its maxim of ‘Safe Driving for Life’. ‘Life’ presumably being that period of metabolic activity before you die in a messy car accident.
Thank you government officials.