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St Andrews University in legal battle over red gowns

Historic institution objects to London-based company Student Gowns Limited selling the item.

Robes: The iconic red gown.
Robes: The iconic red gown. Rhona Rutherford-University of St Andrews / Google 2019

St Andrews University is embroiled in a legal battle over its iconic red gown.

The historic institution objects to London-based Student Gowns Limited selling gowns while claiming they're endorsed by St Andrews.

Lawyers for the university have raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, seeking an interdict to stop the company "passing off its gowns as those of, or authorised by the defender".

They claim the products have been advertised in a way which suggested they were endorsed by or associated with the 600-year-old Fife institution.

The firm, which uses the name Churchill Gowns, is selling ceremonial robes on its website for £99.

Undergraduates were also allegedly told they could receive a free pint at a craft beer pub if they bought the firm's gown from their representatives.

The official version from the university shop costs £159.

The university's legal team claim the rival product is of "inferior quality" and the firm is trying to mislead undergraduates.

Student Gowns Limited denies any wrong doing.

On Friday, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, judge Lord Doherty sat in a short procedural hearing regarding the case.

He will hear arguments from both sides over two days in June this year.

St Andrews University

  • St Andrews University is one of Scotland's so called ancient universities. It was founded between 1410 and 1413.
  • Its graduates include John Knox, the founder of the Church of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish Protestant Reformation, and James Black, the Nobel Prize winner for medicine in 1988.
  • Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, met his wife Kate whilst studying at the university. The royal couple graduated with degrees in geography and history of art.
  • Studying at the university requires undergraduates to take part in certain traditions. One of the traditions is that students have to wear red gowns whilst sitting exams or attending chapel services.
  • Legal papers submitted to the court say the tradition started in 1838 and that the university appointed a local firm called R W Forsyth to make the gowns. A firm called Ede & Ravenscroft currently supply them .

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