February 2018. Scottish brewer Brewdog can breathe a sigh of relief now it’s been told its popular Brewdog Elvis Juice, a grapefruit-infused beer with a 6.5% alcohol content, can remain on the UK supermarket shelves. On 16 January, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled that the Elvis Presley estate could not stop Brewdog Elvis Juice from being registered as a trademark in the UK.
Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson
The opposition was filed in the UK by the Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which in addition to managing the Presley estate also represents those of Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.
ABG claimed that Brewdog Elvis Juice was infringing the word mark Elvis, which it had registered in Europe for various products (including beer) on behalf of the Presley estate. In June 2017, the UKIPO initially found in favour of ABG, but overturned it on appeal, ruling that 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.
What about the Netherlands?
Brewdog launched its Elvis beer on the UK market in 2015, and it’s now also available elsewhere in Europe, including the Netherlands. Whether things will stay that way is less clear. On 19 January, three days after losing its case in the UK, ABG has now mounted an attack on Brewdog Elvis Juice’s European registration. “We’ve failed in England so we’ll try our luck in Europe,” they appear to be thinking. If they succeed, it could mean the end of Elvis beer sales in the Netherlands (and the rest of the EU, apart from the UK).
No-go for Elvis on its own
But it’s not all good news for Brewdog, which has been told it can’t register the words Elvis Juice (without Brewdog) on their own in the UK, since that would overlap too closely with the Elvis brand.