Following the amendment defining how genuine Harris Tweed was made in 1934, the industry entered a period of unprecedented expansion and the old story of mainland firms trying to break into the industry surfaced yet again because of the post-war popularity of the cloth.
The fact that Harris Tweed was also a vital dollar-earning export during and after the war allowed the controversy over ‘unstamped Harris Tweed’ versus Orb-stamped Harris Tweed to spread to the United States where it came to a head in the mid-nineteen fifties, at much the same time as the challenge to Orb-stamped Harris Tweed from producers of ‘unstamped Harris Tweed’ reached crisis point in Britain.
It took the longest civil court case in Scottish legal history at the time and the famous judgement by Lord Hunter to resolve this controversy in 1964. The 1934 definition of Harris Tweed, which had confined all the processes of production to the islands (including the production of yarn) was being flaunted by a consortium of mainland producers, calling themselves the Independent Harris Tweed Producers (IHTP), who had been breaking into the island industry by passing off as ‘Harris Tweed’ a cloth made in contravention of the terms of the 1934 definition.
The mainland producers of ‘unstamped Harris Tweed’ had asked the court to declare that their product, made in accordance with their own made-up definition devised by the Independent Harris Tweed Producers (IHTP) on its formation in 1958, was entitled to be called ‘Harris Tweed’ and to forbid any person anywhere from saying that such a product was not entitled to be called Harris Tweed. The IHTP definition differed from the 1934 definition of Harris Tweed in maintaining that the processes of dyeing, spinning, and finishing could be carried out anywhere in Scotland.
On the other hand, the Orb producers and The Harris Tweed Association contended that it was essential for all these processes to be carried out in the Outer Hebrides, as required in the definition of ‘Harris Tweed’ laid down by the amended Regulations of 1934 governing the use of ‘The Harris Tweed Trade Mark’ otherwise known as the ‘Orb’.
After considering an arduous defence in Edinburgh High Court and following much deliberation, judge Lord Hunter decided against the IHTP and issued his judgement in favour of the Orb producers, because he had concluded that the IHTP definition of Harris Tweed was
‘a mere device designed to enable them, by attaching the name ‘Harris Tweed’ to their product, to use the reputation attaching to the genuine article and to pass off their goods as the goods of other manufacturers and producers’.
Once again the reputation and ownership of the cloth on behalf of the islanders had been upheld serving to secure their precious work for another generation in the face of unscrupulous money men looking to cash in on the skill and hard work of the crofters, weavers and millworkers of the Outer Hebrides.