The Scottish craft beer outfit BrewDog has lost a trademark fight with rock legend Elvis Presley’s estate over the name of one of its more popular beers.
In a ruling dated June 23, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) found that the beer in question, controversially named Elvis Juice IPA, was likely to cause confusion in the marketplace by leading consumers to believe the product is directly connected to the King of Rock and Roll’s estate.
In essence, the ruling boiled down to the fact that Presley’s international repute is greater than that of BrewDog’s.
“Put simply, and notwithstanding that Mr. Presley died nearly 40 years ago, he was/is such an iconic figure, that I would be very surprised if many people (including those at the younger end of the average consumer age spectrum) had not heard of him,” writes Oliver Morris, with the IPO, in the ruling. “Whilst I accept that BrewDog may have something of a reputation, there would still be a significant number of average consumers who will not have heard of it and, consequently, the claimed lessening of confusion would not be applicable to them.”
The IPO has ordered BrewDog to pay Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages licensing relating to the music legend, a paltry £1,500. The brewery must also rebrand the beer, though it does have the option of either appealing the ruling or applying for the EPE’s permission to use the name, according to The Scotsman. GBH has reached out to BrewDog for comment, and will update this post if and when we hear back.
These types of trademark disputes have become increasingly common in beer, as more and more breweries continue to pull from the same creative well, which has seemingly dried up in recent years. Industry watchers, however, have been awaiting a ruling on this particular dispute because BrewDog itself thrust the fight into the public spotlight when it took to its own blog to challenge the veracity of the claims last October.
“Here at BrewDog, we don’t take too kindly to petty pen pushers attempting to make a fast buck by discrediting our good name under the guise of copyright infringement,” the company wrote at the time, in response to the challenge. “Unfortunately, it appears that the late Mr. Presley’s estate has got itself All Shook Up over a little beer called Elvis Juice.”
The always fight-ready company didn’t stop there. With its characteristic snide, James Watt and Martin Dickie, BrewDog’s founding pair, drove the issue home by both legally changing their names to Elvis Watt and Elvis Dickie respectively in an ill-fated attempt to show that one can’t own a name.
“By the Elvis Presley Estate legal team’s logic, I am pretty sure we could even lodge a counter-complaint aimed at Mr. Presley himself for all the records he put out without Elvis Watt and Elvis Dickie’s permission,” they added.
The admittedly funny stunt earned the company some headlines. But in the end, it didn’t win over the IPO.
Further, it’s hard to talk about the company’s pugnacious defensiveness without also pointing out that BrewDog has itself been slammed in recent months for engaging in the same type of corporate bullying it so proudly claims to stand against. As we reported this past March, the company has dealt with calls of hypocrisy over a pair of legal actions it took against two much smaller companies over similar naming disputes, thereby turning the rebel into The Man.
Either way, BrewDog, which boasts operations all over the globe, should have little trouble ultimately weathering this storm. But the beer, a citrus-y IPA introduced in 2015, has reportedly become one of the company’s best sellers, so it’ll certainly be worth watching to see how the company responds.
- Dave Eisenberg
Brewdog loses legal battle with Elvis Presley estate [The Scotsman]