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BrewDog's Martin Dickie and James Watt: UK's Intellectual Property Office rules that Elvis Juice infringes Presley estate copywright

BrewDog: Elvis no more, Burning Sky not at all

It’s a case of Heartbreak Hotel for iconoclastic craft brewer BrewDog. The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has ruled it must rebrand its Elvis Juice American IPA and pay £1,500 to the Elvis Presley estate for copyright infringement.

BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie had earlier changed their names to Elvis by deed poll in a bid to prove that no one could own the name, but the IPO thought otherwise, declaring Presley “the most famous of Elvises.”

“It considered there was a likelihood of indirect confusion between the marks,” reported Charlotte Allery of law firm Coffin Mew. “The Hearing Officer also regarded that the average consumer will assume that the goods sold under BrewDog’s marks come from the same or related undertaking as those sold under the already registered trade mark ‘Elvis’.

“It’s time for a little less conversation and a little more action from BrewDog, which will need to decide whether to appeal the IPO’s decision and the future of its Elvis Juice. For the time being, it appears that Elvis Juice has left the building…”

And that isn’t the only setback the Scots brewer has experienced recently. Shortly after the IPO decision, Burning Sky Brewery said it was pulling its beers from BrewDog’s 46 bars across the UK and around the world.

Mark Tranter, founder of the Sussex brewery and former head brewer at Dark Star, revealed to beer blogger Matthew Curtis that he objected to the company’s efforts to trademark the word ‘punk’.

“This is the final straw for us,” he told the Total Ales blog. “Whilst we understand that they are trying to protect a brand, their bully-boy tactics over anyone using the word ‘punk’ for bars or beer is tedious and their attempt to claim legal ownership of the word is bizarre and insulting.

“This devalues something that they have no claim over. Punk was around before these guys were born.”

In March this year, it was reported that BrewDog threatened legal action prevent a bar in Leeds calling itself ‘Draft Punk’, and later forced a Birmingham pub to change its name from Lone Wolf because it clashed with the gin it was launching.

BrewDog put on a brave face over Burning Sky’s exit with its bars managing director David McDowall sending Curtis this statement:

“It’s sad to hear Burning Sky has decided to stop supplying beer to BrewDog bars, as we have always championed the UK’s best craft breweries, and constantly strive to curate epic UK craft beer ranges for our bars.

“It’s a shame our customers won't get the chance to enjoy their beers in our bars anymore, but we’ll be making space in our fridges for even more amazing beer from new, up and coming breweries from across the UK and beyond.”.

18th August 2017
Phil Mellows

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