Battle for Bullards: Row over name to end in High Court
PUBLISHED: 07:32 08 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 08 June 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
A bitter tug of war over the famous Norwich beer and gin brand Bullards is set to end in the High Court.
Patrick Fisher and Clare Evans, who were directors of the Norwich Craft Beer Company, purchased the right to use the Bullards name in 2015 and have been locked in a furious dispute for more than a year.
And now Mr Fisher has filed a claim against Mrs Evans alleging she transferred the rights without his permission. A preliminary hearing will take place in London in August.
Bullards has been linked to Norwich since 1837 when Richard Bullard launched the Anchor Brewery in Westwick Street.
The legal tussle over the celebrated name and logo has already cost Mr Fisher £140,000, in legal fees, he claims, but he told this newspaper he remains determined to win back the rights.
He helped re-launch the brand with Mrs Evans in 2015 and was in the process of developing Bullards further before having to take a step back for personal reasons.
The 39-year-old, from Thorpe St Andrew, claims Mrs Evans breached a company contract and her actions have meant he has been unable to trade using the Bullards name or use the logo. She transferred these rights without his knowledge, he claims.
Mrs Evans' defence, according to her solicitor Rob Tiffen of Birketts, is that Mr Fisher knew she was transferring the rights and agreed to it. A counter claim is being made that £110,000 is owed to Mrs Evans from the Norwich Craft Beer Company.
"Bullards is all about the name and its links with Norwich and its wonderful history," said Mr Fisher who has been connected with a number of Norwich brewing businesses in the past including Redwell Brewing and pubs the Mash Tun and Tap House.
"It's real heritage - Norwich is rich with that heritage," he added.
Bullards has recently relocated to the old Warings building at Crystal House. It launched a crowdfunding exercise last year to raise money for the relocation and last December raised £25,492 with 225 supporters in just 42 days.
Commenting on Bullards' current incarnation, Mr Fisher said he has only been able to "watch from the sideline" as the brand has developed.
Before falling out Mr Fisher and Mrs Evans made headlines by reinvigorating the historic brewery name in 2016 and production of spirits followed including the Bullards gin which has won several awards.
Mr Fisher also helped set up Trowse-based Redwell Brewing in 2012 - but when this later went into administration, he sold his pub businesses to settle bills. Redwell Brewing has since been bought out by a new group of investors and is unconnected with Mr Fisher.
If the judge rules against Mrs Evans she will be forced to return the intellectual property rights to Norwich Craft Beer Company so Mr Fisher can continue trading using the Bullards name himself.
He currently works as an employee in a brewery outside Norfolk and claims he has a brewing team ready to go, as well as a distillery to re-launch the Bullards brand.
Mr Fisher is also seeking damages and costs.
The first hearing is a case management conference in the High Court on August 5 when there will be a disclosure of documents. Peter Hastings, from Rogers & Norton is acting on behalf of Mr Fisher together with Frank Brumby, from Isadore Goldman.
The history of a famous Norwich brand
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Richard Bullard founded the Anchor Brewery in 1837 on premises on Westwick Street in Norwich. Over the years that followed the business prospered and by the end of the century it occupied a seven-acre site.
How it grew so fast was by snapping up property; it took over smaller breweries, not for their brewing capacity, but for their tied houses. By 1914 the company's estate included 133 premises in Norwich.
In 1958 they acquired their Norwich rivals Youngs and three years later they joined with Steward & Patteson to take over Morgans.
Bullards was an enormous business but its two chairmen made a huge mistake.
When they went to acquire Morgans, they wanted the tied estate and not the brewery and so they sold the brewery element on to the national firm, Watney Mann.
As part of the deal it was agreed that Watneys could sell their brews, which included very popular keg beers. Soon Watneys were outselling the local brews and began purchasing Bullards shares, and by 1963 they took over the Norwich firm. In 1966 brewing ceased at the Anchor brewery. In 1972 the site was sold to a property developer and it is now the site of the Anchor Quay residential development.
There was a revival of the Bullards beer in 1985 and then not until 2015 when the Norwich Craft Beer Company Limited, involving Patrick Fisher and Clare Evans, purchased the rights to the name and relaunched Bullards.