November 2017. No more ‘John Lemon’ lemonade in Europe. Faced with the threat of legal action by Yoko Ono, widow of the late Beatle John Lennon, the beverage’s Polish producer has been forced to rename it ‘On Lemon’.
The John Lemon brand was launched five years ago and is sold in 14 countries throughout Europe, including the Netherlands. To get it banned from the market, Ono not only threatened legal action against the manufacturer Orszulak but all of its European distributors too. According to her Dutch lawyer, Joris van Manen of intellectual property lawyers Hoyng Rokh Monegier, John Lemon infringes John Lennon’s trademark and personality rights.
Let it be and pebble glasses
To lend further weight to her demands, Ono began legal proceedings against Orszulak at the District court in The Hague. The case was withdrawn after a settlement was reached in which Orszulak was given time to rebrand. The Polish manufacturer incidentally maintained it had not been its intention to piggyback on the global fame of John Lennon – an argument that lost its credibility when Van Manen came across promotional material for John Lemon on Facebook and Twitter in which the trademark was accompanied by the slogan “Let it be”, a picture of John Lennon’s trademark pebble glasses and an image of Lennon himself holding lemons. Shortly afterwards, Orszulak threw in the towel. The firm was given until the end of October to use up its existing stock, after which it had to withdraw any remaining bottles from sale and begin selling the drink as On Lemon.
It’s not the first time Yoko Ono has taken action in the Netherlands against the commercial exploitation of her late husband’s fame. In 2015 she brought a case against the use of a Lennon-like finger puppet by telecoms provider Simpel. She won, and Simpel was ordered to remove the puppets from its ads.
This article previously appeared in de Volkskrant newspaper