Red Bull Energy Drink Trade Mark Dispute in Court
Red Bull, the market leader in energy drink products, has launched a High Court bid to block sales and distribution of a rival beverage marketed under the ‘Bullet’ label. Sun Mark Ltd. which launched its ‘Bullet’ product six years ago, and its shipping company, are facing a legal action…
Red Bull, the market leader in energy drink products, has launched a High Court bid to block sales and distribution of a rival beverage marketed under the ‘Bullet’ label. Sun Mark Ltd. which launched its ‘Bullet’ product six years ago, and its shipping company, are facing a legal action brought by Austria-based Red Bull GmbH for alleged trademark infringement. Red Bull claims that the ‘Bullet’ energy drink undermines its own ‘Bullit’ trademarks. Also at stake in the dispute is Sun Mark’s use of the slogan ‘No Bull In This Can’ in connection with its drink, which Red Bull’s lawyers claim is ‘detrimental’ to its reputation. However, Sun Mark’s barrister, Anna Edwards-Stuart, argued before Mr Justice Arnold that the ‘Bullit’ trademarks should be declared invalid, having been ‘applied for in bad faith’. “That is in the sense that the ‘Bullit’ marks were registered by Red Bull, as part of a massive trade mark portfolio, not with any genuine intention to use the marks but as ‘blocking’ registrations to extend the scope of the protection of its primary Red Bull trade mark,” she added. Red Bull’s barrister, Jacqueline Reed, denied that the company had acted in bad faith when applying to register the ‘Bullit’ trademarks and argued that Sun Mark was guilty of simple infringement. Sun Mark denies it intended its ‘No Bull In This Can’ advertising strapline to have any derogatory meaning. “It meant that there was no rubbish in the can”, the company argues. Sun Mark’s Company Secretary, Mrs Renu Ranger, said that Sun Mark had always planned to use the ‘Bullet’ name for its ‘effective and powerful’ energy drink and that the name was ideal for a tonic associated with ‘strength and power’. Sun Mark’s decision to produce a can in a similar size to that used for the Red Bull product was a coincidence based on the market popularity of smaller cans, she added. In the build-up to the launch of ‘Bullet’, Mrs Ranger said she had received several letters from Red Bull demanding that the drink be withdrawn. However, by that time, she said that Sun Mark had expended ‘a lot of time, effort and money’ on the product. Sun Mark’s shipping company, Sea Air & Land Forwarding Ltd, registered the ‘Bullet’ trade mark in December 2001, but the registration was invalidated at the behest of Red Bull in 2005. Miss Edwards-Stuart earlier told the court that Sun Mark is a highly successful company and, amongst other accolades, was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
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