Old-fashioned gin maker Bullards wins legal fight with Red Bull after energy drinks giant claimed the word ‘bull’ in their name would confuse drinkers
- Bullards received letter from Red Bull lawyers opposing trademark application
- Claimed there was ‘likelihood of confusion’ on behalf of public between brands
- But the gin maker fought against Red Bull’s opposition to trademark application
- Hearing officer: Bullards ‘not in any way a logical brand extension of Red Bull’
An old-fashioned gin maker has won a legal battle with Red Bull after the energy drinks giant claimed the word ‘bull’ in their name would confuse customers.
The ten-man team at Norwich-based spirits firm Bullards received a letter from lawyers acting for Red Bull last year opposing its application to register Bullards as a trademark.
The letter claimed there was a ‘likelihood of confusion on behalf of the public’ as both brand names ‘include the term bull’.
It asked Bullards to delete a series of goods and services from its trademark application and registration, including energy drinks, events and non-alcoholic beverages.
Left to right: George Bullard, Russell Evans and John Bullard, who successfully fought Red Bull’s ‘ridiculous’ opposition to their trademark application
Red Bull’s lawyers said in a letter to the gin maker Bullards that it opposed their trademark application because there was a ‘likelihood of confusion on behalf of the public’ as both brand names ‘include the term bull’
Russell Evans, of Bullards, said some people had advised him to do as Red Bull asked as they have ‘deeper pockets than us’.
‘But it just seemed wrong to just cave in to the goliaths so we decided to take a stance and I’m glad we did,’ he said.
A hearing ruled that Red Bull’s opposition to the trademark application failed, with its decision published this month.
Allan James, senior hearing officer at the UK Intellectual Property Office, wrote as part of his decision: ‘Bullards is not in any way a logical brand extension of Red Bull.’
Bullards was founded in 1837 by Richard Bullard, making beer and importing wine and spirits, before it was taken over by national brewery Watneys in 1963.
The Bullards name was revived in 2015, with the company focusing on gin.
Austrian firm Red Bull was launched in 1987, some 150 years after Bullards.
Mr Evans said he was ‘relieved’ that the legal battle was over, adding: ‘It just begs the question as to why they think they can do things like this when all they did was start something that’s now been thrown out but it’s cost me £30,000 to defend.’
Russell Evans, of the old-fashioned gin maker Bullards, said he was ‘relieved’ the legal battle was over but questioned why they started it in the first place and cost him £30,000 to defend
Bullards was founded in 1837 by Richard Bullard, making beer and importing wine and spirits, before it was taken over by national brewery Watneys in 1963
He said that Bullards does not want to make energy drinks, but Red Bull ‘also wanted us to not do soft drinks, which we do, and they also wanted us to stop doing events, which is ridiculous’.
‘My view was even though we don’t want to do energy drinks, I didn’t want to concede to them the fact that they had the right to do so and we didn’t,’ he said.
‘It seemed a chink in our armour if we conceded that point so we decided to fight on all fronts.
‘Even though we don’t want to make energy drinks we can if we want to.’
Luke Portnow, trade mark attorney for Bullards, said: ‘We stood firm that Bullards and Red Bull are of such different trade, no amount of reputation in energy drinks was enough to prevent use and registration here.
‘The ruling confirms the mere fact that because the two marks share a common element is not a proper basis on which to base a finding of indirect confusion.
‘It pains me that such unnecessarily aggressive – and expensive – enforcement practices continue in this field of law.
Left to right: George Bullard, Russell Evans and John Bullard cheersing to victory after they successfully fought Red Bull’s ‘ridiculous’ opposition to their trademark application
‘It is legally and financially unfair on applicants to have to defend such actions, so you can only imagine how thoroughly thrilled I am for Russell and everyone behind the amazing Bullards brand.’
George Bullard, a great great great grandson of the brand’s founder says ‘We’re thrilled with the hearing outcome and the continuity which it embodies’.
Red Bull has been approached for comment.
In a statement issued last year when news of the threat of legal action emerged, the company said: ‘We do not believe it appropriate to comment on a current legal case.’
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