Monday, 9 September 2013

RedNev in court next?

Not an energy drink
I see in the latest issue of What's Brewing that two drinks companies have gone down the bullying path of threatening smaller companies that have similar names to their own. The Ticketybrew Brewery of Stalybridge was told by Halewood, who make Crabbies Ginger Beer, that their name was too similar to its registered trademark 'Tickety Boo'. Redwell Brewery in Norwich received several letters from Red Bull threatening court action alleging trademark infringement. Presumably they think they own the word 'red', which means I can expect to be in court shortly concerning the name of this blog. In both cases, they have backtracked, with Halewood pointing out that they never actually threatened Ticketybrew with court action. Red Bull have have decided that Redwell can continue to use its current name with the face-saving proviso that Redwell never enter the energy drinks market. They never intended to anyway.

Not tickety boo
These stories remind me of Samuel Smith's brewery taking Cropton, an independent Yorkshire brewery, to court over its use of the Yorkshire white rose on two of its beers. Samuel Smith claimed that Cropton's white rose was too similar to its own. The judge decided, in relation to the two Cropton's two beers concerned, that one infringed Samuel Smith's trademark but the other didn't.

When Liverpool Organic Brewery lost the rights to use the Higson's name, they continued brewing the beer, as they own the recipe, using a pump clip that is the same colour as the Higson's one (red). However, I noticed the Liver Bird on the clip had been redesigned, no doubt to avoid claims of copyright infringement.

How come Halewood and Red Bull backed off? In both cases, social media went mad with condemnation of the bullying tactics and the companies were worried about the adverse publicity they were getting. It is unfortunately too common, and not just in the drinks world, that big companies will threaten with court action smaller companies who have little chance of being able to afford the lawyers they'd need to fight the case. Even if they could afford the lawyers, they couldn't afford the risk of potentially massive damages should they lose. All too often, smaller companies can see no alternative but to change whatever it is the bully's copyright lawyers are nitpicking about, thus losing any reputation and good will they have already built up. It's nice the see the bullies having to back down for a change.


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