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Red Bull Files Opposition with Virginia Craft Brewery

Red Bull, the makers of the popular energy drink that “gives you wings,” has filed a Notice of Opposition against a craft brewery.

Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, Virginia has found themselves at odds with the energy drink maker. What does it boil down to? Animals.

Red Bull’s Notice of Opposition is against a pending trademark Old Ox Brewery has filed to federally protect their name. Red Bull is contending that they will be financially damaged if Old Ox uses their name, logo, potentially a red color surrounding the “ox” name. Why? Oxen and bulls are too closely related. From the complaint:

An “ox” and a “bull” both fall within the same class of “bovine” animals and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers. In addition, an ox is a castrated bull.

If you didn’t see that one coming, don’t worry, Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president didn’t see it coming either. Red Bull has basically given him a list of demands in the opposition, which includes: never to use the colors red, silver or blue in their logo, never make a soft drink (a lot breweries make ginger beer, root beer, or even cola), or put a bovine image on any beer, growler, tap handle or beer bottle.

Burns has issued a public letter for Red Bull (seen below). His counter offer is simple – they will never make energy drinks.

Important to note that this is currently not a lawsuit. Brendan Palfreyman, lawyer friend of Beer Street Journal clarifies for us:

A notice of opposition is not a lawsuit.  It is what happens when there is a pending trademark application and a party that thinks they will be harmed if the application results in an actual registration trademarks can file one with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”).  Basically, a party that files a notice of opposition is seeking to make sure that a trademark application does not result in a registered trademark. 

To be continued…

Burns public Red Bull letter:

Hey Red Bull –

You seem pretty cool. You sponsor snowboarders, adventure racers, rock climbers and motocross bikers. You launch people into space so that they can skydive back down to earth. That’s all really darn cool. For all I know, you’re reading this while strapping yourself into a Formula One racecar that is about to be lit on fire and jumped over a large chasm of some sort. How cool would that be? Feel free to give it a try.

Here’s the thing, though. You are being extremely uncool to us at Old Ox Brewery. We are a small startup brewery in Ashburn, Virginia. We’re family-run, we love beer, and we love our community. For reasons that we cannot understand, you have attempted to strong arm us into changing our identity for the last 10 months because you believe folks might mistake Old Ox beer for Red Bull energy drinks. We respectfully disagree. The only similarity between our two products is that they are both liquids. You make non-alcoholic (but very extreme) energy drinks. We make delicious (but laid-back) beer. Our consumers are looking for two distinctly different experiences from our respective products.

Basically you are holding us hostage with a list of demands that, if agreed to, would severely limit our ability to use our brand. Demands like, never use the color red, silver or blue; never use red with any bovine term or image; and never produce soft drinks. Do you own the color red? What about fuchsia, scarlet, crimson, or mauve? Are you planting your flag in the color wheel and claiming those shades for Red Bull? Do you claim exclusive rights to all things bovine? Do you plan to herd all heifers, cows, yaks, buffalo, bison, and steer into your intellectual property corral, too?

When we refused to succumb to your demands, you responded by filing a formal opposition to not just our trademark but to the very name Old Ox Brewery. Way to step on our American dream. You say you are protecting your intellectual property rights, but your claim, in our opinion, is Red Bulls**t.

We can only interpret your actions as one thing—bullying. You are a big Red Bully. Just like that mean kid from grade school pushing everyone down on the playground and giving us post-gym class wedgies. You are giving us one hell of a corporate wedgie. We don’t appreciate it and we sure as hell don’t deserve it.

Is this really what you’re about? Are you a bully? Your extensive marketing campaigns (your glitzy advertising, your sponsored sports events, your death defying stunt shows, etc.) certainly don’t project that image. Take a hard look at your “case.” Can you honestly look at our brand and say, “this is a threat to my image?” We don’t think you can. Given that,  we repeat our offer: We agree NEVER to produce energy drinks. In exchange, we are asking for one simple thing: Leave us alone. Drop this trademark dispute. The only people benefiting are the lawyers.

Sincerely and Uninfringingly Yours,

Chris Burns

2 thoughts on “Red Bull Files Opposition with Virginia Craft Brewery

  1. The lawyers always come down hard with the hammer in their first contact. Scare tactics. The little guy most always loses in the end due to lack of funds.

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