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Sensio Responds To Gordon Ramsay U.K. Lawsuit

Sensio Inc. has issued a statement “to clarify its business relationship with Gordon Ramsay,” in response to recent news reports that Ramsay had filed suit against the company in the U.K.’s High Court.

According to reports in London’s Daily Mail, Ramsay’s U.K. suit, which followed on the heels of a recently dismissed suit that Sensio had filed against the fiery celebrity chef, is aimed at settling exactly who has the U.S. rights to market and merchandise kitchenware bearing the Ramsay brand. Sensio’s suit, filed in Cook County, IL, near Chicago, was dismissed by a U.S. Chancery Court judge, citing lack of jurisdiction.

At issue is a verbal agreement and letter of intent between principals of the Ramsay and Sensio organizations that would grant Sensio the rights to market a broad range of Ramsay-branded products beyond the small electrics license that Sensio originally negotiated.

According to Sensio’s statement, obtained by HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®, “The dispute mentioned above is related to the extension and expansion of the license agreement involving the parties at play and does not involve the small kitchen appliances distributed by Sensio Inc. to its customers. Therefore, the small kitchen appliances bearing the name of Gordon Ramsay and duly approved by him and his team will continue to be distributed in the normal course of business to all of Sensio Inc. customers.”

The Sensio-Ramsay relationship dates to the fall of 2009 when, according to court papers obtained by HomeWorld, Sensio reached out to Ramsay and introduced him to Maurice Phillips & Co. Ltd. (MP&C), Sensio’s sales and distribution partner in the U.K. At that point Gordon Ramsay Holdings International (GRHI) granted MP&C, “exclusive license to use the Ramsay intellectual proper rights in relation to the manufacture and sale of certain products, which included ‘small electrical domestic appliances,’” kitchen textiles, and kitchen utensils and gadgets in the United Kingdom, Ireland and North America. Under the terms of that licensing agreement MP&C was authorized to grant a sublicense to Sensio, “in respect of the sales and marketing of small electrical domestic appliances for the North American market.”

Under the terms of that agreement Sensio introduced two collections: Gordon Ramsay Professional and Gordon Ramsay Everyday, with the former being unveiled at the 2010 International Home + Housewares Show.

Subsequent to that introduction, Sensio negotiated a deal with Kmart, to build a program around the product line developed by Sensio and Sensio worked with Kmart to negotiate an exclusive distribution deal for the Ramsay, ‘Everyday’ line of products, according to court papers. Kmart announced the line in July 2011 and has since rolled out a collection of products in its stores that includes small electrics, cookware, gadgets and kitchen tools.

According to U.S. court papers, “the relevant facts are generally not in dispute.” Where the dispute seems to arise is in late 2010 discussions between principals of the Sensio and Ramsay organizations around an agreement to, “restructure and streamline the Ramsay brand name business for North America.”

According to court papers from Sensio’s U.S. suit, in February 2011 Ramsay and Sensio officials signed a, “Letter of Intent” under which a new Canadian company would be formed, called Gordon Ramsay Licensing International. Sensio’s parent company is headquartered in Canada. Under this agreement, the new licensing entity, “would be granted the licensing rights in North America to the Ramsay brand name for all ‘hard-line and food products licensed categories.’” The Letter further provided that MP&C and Ramsay International Holdings, “would transfer and assign all of their rights and obligations in the Head License and various sublicense agreements to the GR Licensing,” which would be jointly controlled by Ramsay and Sensio founding principal Daniel Lavy. However, GR Licensing was never formed, the U.S. court papers state.

According to the U.S. court papers, in July 2011 representatives of the parties and MP&C met in London, at which time it was purportedly agreed that the February Letter of Intent would be replaced with a Master License Agreement, “which would supplement the Head License and Sensio Sublicense, but expand the license to a broader range of products.”

According to the U.S. court papers, the Ramsay entities promised to send a written master license agreement reflecting the terms of the oral agreement, but a written master agreement was never executed. The Letter of Intent and related talks appear to be at the center of the current litigation in the U.K., according to published reports.

According to London’s Daily Mail, Sensio claims the Letter of Intent and related verbal communications represent a binding contract, while Ramsay’s team is seeking a ruling that there is no such binding contract. While Sensio officials declined to comment on the specifics of the U.K. court case, Sensio CEO and co-founder Shae Hong told HomeWorld, “We are very proud of the products we developed with Gordon Ramsay and his team and we are committed to offer to our customers the same quality products that they are used to.”

Calls to Gordon Ramsay’s representatives in the U.K. were not returned.