David defeats Goliath in litter battle

    Danny Lucas
    Littergram creator Danny Lucas
    Facebook backs down after threatening town businessman

    A TONBRIDGE businessman says he is ‘delighted’ after the news that social media giant Facebook is dropping its legal case against his mobile app.

    Danny Lucas, 49, launched his app Littergram in 2014, allowing members of the public to instantly alert councils to the specific locations of litter, who legally cannot ignore such reports.

    But in November 2015, when Mr Lucas went to trademark the name of his app, Facebook launched an objection, claiming it was too similar to the photo-sharing site Instagram, which they acquired for $1billion in 2012.

    “I thought blimey, I’ve got a huge giant of a company against me,” recalls Mr Lucas. “So I decided not to trademark. But then in April I received another letter saying that I wasn’t even allowed to even call it Littergram anymore.”

    In response, he launched an appeal directly to Mark Zuckerberg through an online video, with the hope ‘that common sense would prevail’. This gained national attention resulting in the BBC receiving a statement from Facebook in May, explaining that there would be no problem as long as there continued to be no trademark.

    The dispute appeared to be resolved until September, when Mr Lucas received another letter saying he had just nine days to stop using the Littergram name.

    So when a month later the letter arrived on November 4, he said: “It came as a complete and pleasant surprise to me to receive the letter last week dropping the matter and totally relieved that I can now keep using the name.

    “I could not pre-empt that this would be the outcome as it was very apparent that there was no consistency to what was happening.

    “Winning a name battle against one of the largest organisations in the world shows councils we mean business and gives us more strength than any trademark could ever offer.”

    Mr Lucas, who is married with two children, said he had ‘no interest in getting into a battle with a big company’ insisting that there is very little commercial aspect to his app, since it is free to download and it carries no advertisements or sponsorships.

    Describing the project as ‘philanthropic’, he claimed he was motivated to combat the fact that the UK is the ‘third most littered country in the world’ and so has invested £250,000 of his own money in the online tool, which currently has over 20,000 active users in the UK.

    Despite Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council being the first authority in the UK to enlist in the use of the app, Mr Lucas says he is ‘not too impressed at times’ by the state of litter in the town, saying there is ‘still a long way to go’ in his battle against litter.