Friday, 16 August 2013

The ‘Red Bully’ Saga and the world of Brand Trademark Protection Redbull and Redwell

“ Seeing Red”
In marketing, the answer to the question “what’s in a name ?” is “a very great deal of money.”

Online Press Coverage of the Redwell Brewery and Red Bull Story in August 2013
A lot of investment of capital and skills goes in to building a brand and defending it from deliberate or accidental imitation. It is a serious business.

‘Me too’ products try to piggy back on the efforts of brand leaders products. They have to stay clear of infringing copyright, patents and intellectual copyright.

 We hear regularly of titanic fights on Intellectual copyright, patents and trademarks from the likes of Apple and Samsung etc.

Biting the Bullet ! ( Once bitten twice shy ?)

In the drinks sector there have been past cases such as in 2012 Red Bull won a High Court bullfight with a rival firm Sun Mark.

Austrian firm Red Bull GMBH claimed that Sun Mark infringed trademarks by naming a drink Bullet, and using the advertising slogan "no bull in this can".

Sun Mark, and associated shipping firm Sea Air & Land Forwarding, disputed the claim.

But a High Court judge sided with Red Bull GMBH, following a hearing in London.

Mr Justice Arnold heard that Red Bull GMBH sold a drink called Bullit as well as Red Bull.

Red Bull GMBH said trademark rights to the word Bullit and the words Red Bull had been breached.

The judge said Sun Mark's use of Bullet created a "clear likelihood of confusion", and added that the "no bull ..." slogan took "unfair advantage of the repute of Red Bull".

Sun Mark, and Sea Air & Land Forwarding, did infringe trademarks, he concluded.

 Defending the brand names, trade marks is strategically significant and tactically important..

However brand policing, if clumsily executed can create short term unfavourable publicity in the form of ‘David and Goliath’ confrontations which attract media attention.

Example of unflattering on line poll during
 the Red bull / Redwell story
This week’s “ Red Bully” story was covered online and n the conventional press by the likes of the BBC, Huffington Post, ITV,  the trade press sites  such as Brand Republic, Design Week as well as the local press and media of East Anglia.

The ‘free’ publicity and raised profile of the fledgling micro brewer Redwell from Norwich has probably been a boon to the eight employee company. The story has also raised the profile of the design work on the bottles and other merchandise  created by third year graphic designers at Norwich University of the Arts.

 However there must have had some heartbeat skipping moments  for the directors of the micro brewer, when they received the first and follow up correspondence of Red Bull’s Brand Tsar Herr Jeserznik  from Austria a few days ago.

Red Bull’s  brand enforcement manager, wrote to the microbrewery to lodge a complaint  asking that Redwell withdraw its trademark application as the names are apparently too similar.

Redwell is named after Norwich’s Redwell Street.

The letter stated that the name “comprises Red Bull’s earlier trademark ‘red’ as a whole, which is a prima facie for the similarity of signs.”

Moreover, all trademarks consist solely of English words and contain the common element ‘red’. The term ‘well’ is merely descriptive and therefore of no distinctive character at all.

Furthermore the term ‘bull’ and the term ‘well’ share the same ending and just differ in two letters.

“The ending ‘ll’ is identical and therefore the terms Red Bull and Redwell are confusingly similar from a visual as well from a phonetical point of view.”

Just some of the things that make for a brand
The letter added that the brewery’s name would “take unfair advantage of, dilute and tarnish” Red Bull’s trademarks and that if Redwell did not comply then the brand would take legal action.


In media reports of his letter, Mr Jeserznik said : ‘The term B-U-L-L and the term W-E-L-L share the same ending and just differ in two letters.

‘The ending (L-L) is identical and therefore the terms RED BULL and “Redwell” are confusingly similar from a visual as well as from a phonetical point of view.’

He went on to say “ that consumers would be confused by the similarity of the two brands.”

One of the bars at the 2013 CAMRA
Great British Festival of Beer 2013,held at  London's Olympia
Well attending this year’s Great British Beer Festival at London’s Olympia Centre I wonder how many of the beers and breweries are trademarked to the same extent.

 I noticed going round the various themed bars there were beers called Red Cullin from the Isle of Skye, Kempton an East Sussex Brewery had a beer called Red -  a hop-forward Amber Ale. Big fruit flavours balanced against a complex malt backdrop, or Hawkshead (Cumbria) Red Rich flavoured with lots of fruitiness and good hop flavour with lingering after taste. 

There was Coggerrhall Gold from  Essex Brewer Red Fox ( a Golden Ale with intense lemon, grapefruit and lychee aroma/flavour with a small percentage of wheat). 

The Biggest Pub in London ?
Great British Festival of Beer
London Olympia 13-17th August 2013
Whilst Greater London’s Redemption Brewery’s Best Bitter Hopspur ( will they be receiving a letter from  White Hart lane’s brand enforcement supremo  for confusingly similar sounding name one wonders ? Are puns permitted ?)  Chewy biscuit malt flavours, slightly sweet with roast malt throughout. Citrus and pine flavours with a bitter finish.

Well, should Redwell’s bottled beers meet CAMRA’s exacting standards for real ale in a bottle  (RAIB) for beer that is unpasteurised and contains yeast and enough fermentable sugars to allow for a slow secondary fermentation in the bottle, they might well want to leverage profile further. They were not to be found at the Norfolk district bar at this year’s show.

Now that Red Bull has retreated from its initial threatening behaviour ,the short term poor publicity of being ‘branded’  “Red Bully” in the online coverage will probably have little long lasting adverse publicity of their image.

Indeed it could be seen an alert to any potential competitor large or small to be extremely wary of infringing on its brand names and trademarks when registering a trade mark.


Related Links

Edp 24 Video Interview with Redwell

Patently absurd Patent Trolls

BBC ‘s Rory Cellan-Jones excellent programme on Radio 4


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