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Red Bull in war with Norwich's Redwell Brewing over name

PUBLISHED: 09:03 14 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:26 31 July 2017

Redwell Brewery, Norwich. Pictured left to right directors Amy Hancock, Patrick Fisher, Benjamin Thompson and Michael Baxter. Photo: Steve Adams

Redwell Brewery, Norwich. Pictured left to right directors Amy Hancock, Patrick Fisher, Benjamin Thompson and Michael Baxter. Photo: Steve Adams

It's a classic case of David versus Goliath.

Redwell Brewery, Norwich that has received correspondence from Red Bull requesting that they change their name. Pictured left to right directors Amy Hancock, Patrick Fisher, Benjamin Thompson and Michael Baxter. Photo: Steve AdamsRedwell Brewery, Norwich that has received correspondence from Red Bull requesting that they change their name. Pictured left to right directors Amy Hancock, Patrick Fisher, Benjamin Thompson and Michael Baxter. Photo: Steve Adams

One is the world-wide market leader in energy drinks and employs nearly 9,000 people.

The other is a small brewery on the outskirts of Norwich that employs eight people.

But Red Bull, from its headquarters in Austria, has written to Redwell Brewing, based at The Arches in Bracondale, near County Hall, requesting it to immediately withdraw its trademark application, because it claims the names are too similar and would confuse consumers. In the letter, Red Bull’s brand enforcement manager, Hansjorg Jeserznik, says Redwell’s application “comprises Red Bull’s earlier trademark ‘red’ as a whole, which is a prima facie for the similarity of signs.

“Moreover, all trademarks consist solely of English words and contain the common element ‘red’. The term ‘well’ is merely descriptive and therefore of no distinctive character at all.

“Furthermore the term ‘bull’ and the term ‘well’ share the same ending and just differ in two letters.

“The ending ‘ll’ is identical and therefore the terms Red Bull and Redwell are confusingly similar from a visual as well from a phonetical point of view.”

Red Bull goes on to say that “...consumers ... will easily consider the sign ‘redwell’ as a line extension under Red Bull, in particular that the goods and services offered under ‘redwell’ and Red Bull are coming from the same undertaking.

“The consumer will thus be confused as to the origin of the services.”

It also adds that the trademark would take unfair advantage of, dilute and tarnish the Red Bull trademarks.

The letter adds that if Redwell fails to comply with its request, it reserved its right to initiate legal steps including the right to file an opposition against Redwell’s trademark.

Redwell Brewing, which started in October last year, is run by directors Patrick Fisher, Benjamin Thompson, Michael Baxter and Amy Hancock.

Mr Fisher said his first reaction to the Red Bull letter was shock, and his second was to contact his solicitors to find out where it stood.

He added: “It seems like an over-the-top reaction.

“As a small, innovative brewery, it’s quite worrying to have this thing hanging over our heads, when we are looking to move the business forward.”

Fellow director Mr Thompson added: “It’s quite scary that they could force us to change our name.

“We called ourselves Redwell after Redwell Street in Norwich. It was not just some random name we picked out of thin air.

“Patrick and Amy are part-owners of the Norwich Tap House in Redwell Street, and our beers are sold there.

“The name of Red Bull never came up at all when we were discussing what to call the brewery.

“I cannot see that there would be any confusion between Red Bull and Redwell. For a start,

Red Bull is two words and Redwell is one, and then the second words are different. We are different names, brands, designs and products.”

He added: “A lot of hard work has gone into developing our brand. The design on our bottles and other merchandise was created by third year graphic designers at Norwich University of the Arts. It would be catastrophic for us now to have to go back to the drawing board to find another name.”

Redwell supplies craft beer to pubs in Norwich and London and is expanding to sell across the country to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester.

It produces 3000 litres of beer weekly, has been selling beer for about five months, and employs eight people. It claims to be the first brewery to brew lager in the city for more than 30 years.

As of the end of 2012, Red Bull employed 8,966 people in 165 countries and sold to 159 countries.

Redwell has replied to Red Bull’s request and is trying to find a reasonable solution, without giving up its name, Mr Thompson added.

A spokesman for Red Bull, which was first launched in Austria in 1987, and is still based in that country, said that it did not comment on pending cases.

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