Multinational energy drinks company Red Bull has threatened Norwich-based gin manufacturer Bullards with legal action over the use of ‘bull’ in the latter’s name. Red Bull contends that the public may become confused due to the presence of the term in both brands’ names. Established in 1837, Bullards deems Red Bull’s claim as ludicrous and intends to fight back by opposing an application to register its mark before the UK Intellectual Property Office. Despite its 183-year history of crafting premium gins, Bullards continues to face adversaries who challenge its achievements with baseless allegations.
Red Bull declined to comment on the ongoing legal matter when approached by the BBC but sent a letter of intent proposing that if Bullards removed certain goods and services from its trademark application and registration, such as energy drinks, events, or non-alcoholic beverages, the dispute could be amicably resolved. Red Bull’s lawyers acknowledged that Bullards’ brand originated from a historical family business and expressed no desire to prevent them from continuing their traditional operations. Russell Evans of Bullards, however, scoffed at the proposal, calling Red Bull’s claims ludicrous.
Although Red Bull has not explicitly demanded that Bullards cease using its name for gin, Mr Evans insists there is no misunderstanding and argues that conceding would be tantamount to admitting confusion exists. He criticises Red Bull’s attempts at intimidation, noting the thousands of pounds it would cost to comply with the demands in the letter, which would prohibit events, soft drinks, and energy drinks – products Bullards never intended to offer.
Bullards, originally a brewery founded in 1837, focused on beer production and importing wine and spirits before its acquisition by Watneys national brewery in 1963. Recently, the company was revived under the same name, emphasising gin. Bullard confidently responds to the legal action, stating, “If needs be, we’ll go to court and let’s see what a court of law has to say about it.” Austrian firm Red Bull entered the market nearly 30 years ago, and the popularity of energy drinks has since skyrocketed, a development that would have been unimaginable decades ago.
In 2013, Red Bull attempted to challenge Norwich brewery Redwell Brewing in court due to the similarity of the names. However, they soon retracted their statement, affirming they had no dispute with the small business.