Oct 13, 2016

Elvis Trademark Dispute Leaves Parties All Shook Up

The two founders of popular Scottish brewery BrewDog have taken the unusual step of changing their Christian names to 'Elvis' in response to a threat of legal action from the estate of Elvis Presley.

According to a post on their website, they changed their name by deed poll on 4th October 2016. Their statement can be read here. James Watt and Martin Dickie said they received a notice from the lawyers representing Presley's estate saying that the brewery is not authorised to call its blood orange and grape-infused IPA 'Elvis Juice'. This has become one of the brewery's bestselling drinks.

The claim being threatened by the late singer's legal team seems to be that of trade mark infringement. Briefly, trade mark infringement is where someone uses an identical or similar trade mark for identical or similar goods and/or services of a registered trade mark.

After the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, his name and image have been trademarked by Elvis Presley Enterprises, which earns millions of dollars on an annual basis through loyalties and licenses which all grant the right to manufacture and market merchandise.

BrewDog applied for a trade mark to register the term 'Elvis Juice' (UK00003137808) in November 2015. They subsequently applied for another trade mark in March 2016 for the term 'BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE' (UK00003156663). Both trade marks have been applied for in class 32 which covers beer, ale and other alcoholic beverages and both have been opposed by the Elvis Presley estate.

The purpose behind the change of name to Elvis may have been an attempt to take advantage of a section of the Trade Marks Act 1994 which means trade mark owners cannot restrict people from using their own name to identify themselves (the own name defence). To take advantage of this provision however the use of the name must be honest. It is unlikely that BrewDog could rely on this as the owners changed their name only in response to the notice from the Elvis Presley Estate. An equally likely explanation is that BrewDog are aiming to capture public attention with this stunt and get public opinion on their side in any dispute.

It will be interesting to see whether this develops any further or whether the Elvis Presley estate will decide it is not worth the public attention.

in: News, Trade Marks

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