A pint of victory for BrewDog in the battle for Elvis Juice

Posted on: January 17th, 2018

Scottish brewery BrewDog has won a lengthy legal battle with the estate of Elvis Presley over the name of its popular ‘Elvis Juice’ IPA.

As we reported back in the Summer of 2017, the Scottish brewers launched their grapefruit based ‘Elvis Juice’ in July 2015 and, in early 2016, the company filed trade mark applications for ‘Elvis Juice’ and ‘BrewDog Elvis Juice’ to protect the drink.

The Elvis Presley estate hopped to action and opposed the applications, having already registered the mark ‘Elvis’ for beers and other beverages. Showing that they are a barrel of laughs, the BrewDog founders responded by changing their names to Elvis by deed poll, to show that the name is not exclusive to the iconic singer.

Unfortunately, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) rejected the trademark applications on the grounds that they were likely to cause confusion between the marks. The beer giants were ordered to pay Elvis’ estate £1,500 and rebrand the popular tipple.

However, the owners of BrewDog remained stout and appealed the decision. In a recent ruling, the Board of Appeal dismissed the appeal in relation to ‘Elvis Juice’ but considered that the mark ‘BrewDog Elvis Juice’ brewed up a number of different concepts in the mind (including names, dogs and liquids), whereas ‘Elvis’ is just a name. The two marks were too different for there to be direct confusion and, as such, the UKIPO ruled that the appeal in relation to ‘BrewDog Elvis Juice’ was upheld. The mark can now proceed to registration.

This story is a bitter reminder to brand owners that, whilst trade marks and brand names should be memorable and easily roll off the tongue, care should be taken to select an original and unique name. Trade marks are valuable assets and they should be crafted carefully to avoid potential enforcement action from other brand owners.

In this case, the inclusion of ‘BrewDog’ in the mark, together with the publicity surrounding this interesting dispute, may well have lead to a sip of victory for the Scottish brewer.

Charlotte Allery is a Solicitor in the Commercial and Employment Team.