BrewDog wins Elvis Juice trade mark dispute
In a recent appeal, the Appointed Person has overturned a previous ruling of the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), and confirmed that the mark BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE is not confusingly similar to the name ELVIS. However, a separate application for the mark ELVIS JUICE was refused.
The case began in June 2016, when the estate of the late singer Elvis Presley opposed BrewDog’s UK trade mark applications for the marks ELVIS JUICE and BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE, in respect of beer and other goods in class 32. The oppositions were based on trade mark registrations for the marks ELVIS and ELVIS PRESLEY, covering a range of goods and services, including beer.
The founders of BrewDog famously changed their names to Elvis by deed poll in protest. In a statement on their website they said “Unfortunately, it appears that the late Mr Presley’s estate has got itself All Shook Up over a little beer called Elvis Juice. We recently received a notice from the lawyers of the Elvis Presley Estate that we were not allowed to call our blood orange and grapefruit infused IPA ‘Elvis Juice’… we have naturally taken the only sensible and effective course of action to ease their Suspicious Minds; As of the 4th of October 2016, our two co-founders, James and Martin have both have legally changed their names to ‘Elvis’ by deed poll”.
In June 2017, the UKIPO Hearing Officer upheld the oppositions in their entirety and refused BrewDog’s applications. He found that the average consumer would assume that the only trader who would use the name ELVIS JUICE would be the trader responsible for the ELVIS mark, and that adding BREWDOG was not enough to prevent confusion.
BrewDog appealed to the Appointed Person, who issued a decision in January 2018. Despite commenting “when I first saw the mark ELVIS JUICE… it brought to mind Elvis Presley”, he criticised the Hearing Officer’s decision that beer consumers who see the word Elvis will always think of Elvis Presley, finding that this “is well beyond day-to-day knowledge and is based on supposition”.
Looking first at the mark ELVIS JUICE, the Appointed Person quickly and unsurprisingly confirmed that there is a likelihood of confusion between the marks ELVIS and ELVIS JUICE, stating “I adopt the Hearing Officer’s analysis that at the very least the average consumer would consider ELVIS JUICE beer and ELVIS beer to come from the “same stable””.
However, he took a different view of the mark BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE, commenting that “the evolution from ELVIS to BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE is far from logical” and “the common element of ELVIS is not enough on its own to make consumers think there is a link between the mark ELVIS and BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE”. He therefore overturned the initial decision in respect of this mark and confirmed that the application for BREWDOG ELVIS JUICE can proceed to registration for beer and ale in class 32.
Clearly delighted with the decision, and as if to add insult to injury for the Elvis Presley estate, BrewDog’s founders have issued a statement on their website offering a free schooner of BrewDog Elvis Juice to anyone who comes dressed as Elvis Presley to one of their bars in the UK, Barcelona, Brussels and Berlin this weekend.