The strength of the mighty?

Ailsa Pemberton

Ailsa Pemberton

When a wealthy and powerful firm takes offence at the use of a trade mark small firms are placed in a tricky situation. Do they stand firm or, in fear of being sued, do they back down?

In a recent case the little guy won. The Austrian company Red Bull claimed that a small Norfolk brewery brand “Redwell” was causing confusion despite the fact that Redwell Brewery produced only beer and was actually named after Redwell Street in Norwich. Earlier this year, following their application to register the trade mark, Redwell who employs only 8 people, received a letter threatening legal action.

For a small company the threat of litigation is terrifying, leaving them facing expensive legal fees or the effects and/or costs of rebranding. Many of the big players realise the consequences of such threats and use these to demonstrate their might in the market place. Sadly the losers are often the tiny innocent companies who had no intention of misleading anyone in the first place.

In the Redwell case the story hit the national papers and, following negotiations, the threats have been withdrawn on the proviso that Redwell do not use their trade mark for energy drinks.

I wonder if the same result would have been reached if Redwell had not publicised the initial letter?

This case reminds us that whoever we are and however big we are, there are many ways to protect and deal with intellectual property such as trade marks. Certainly the big guns have the clout but they also have bigger reputations to protect. 

Ailsa Pemberton
Associate
Intellectual Property Department
APemberton@LawBlacks.com      
0113 207 0000

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