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BrewDog's Trademark Application For 'Elvis Juice' Brew Blocked By The Elvis Presley Estate

One point I fear doesn't get made enough when it comes to trademark law is that trademarks ought to be both unique and specific in order to fulfill the law's purpose of keeping the public from being confused as to the origins of goods and services. There's a level of nuance severely lacking in the way trademarks are both granted and enforced such that the law is used far less for the benefit of the public than it is a revenue generator for those who would lock up common names and words. A perfect example of this would be the trademark application for "Elvis Juice" by the brewery BrewDog being blocked by the Elvis Presley Estate.

Now, the last time we wrote about BrewDog, it was having its own issues with trademark enforcement. A pub in Birmingham had received a notice from the brewery's lawyers that it's planned name, The Lone Wolf, infringed on a spirit of the same name created by BrewDog. After the public backlash that ensued, BrewDog quite quickly backed off, both allowing the pub to keep its name while also publicly promising to leash the lawyers and only use them when truly warranted. This time, the shoe is on the other foot, with the Elvis Presley Estate blocking BrewDog's trademark application for "Elvis Juice", claiming that the public would associate the use of that somewhat common first name with the long-dead singer. The hearing officer for the UK Intellectual Property Office somehow agreed with this line of reasoning.

Last month the UK Intellectual Property Office found in EPE’s favour, with hearing officer Oliver Morris saying that “the average consumer will assume that the brand Elvis Juice is from the same or economically linked source as the brand Elvis”.

Noting that “the opponent has been successful”, Mr Morris refused to register the marks and ordered BrewDog to pay EPE £1,500 as a contribution towards its costs.

When this trouble first began, two of the creators of BrewDog actually went out and went through the legal process of changing their names to Elvis, attempting to make the point that it's a common enough first name that nobody should associate it with a single famous person for all alcohol products everywhere. The brewery has a reputation for fighting these kinds of fights, so it can appeal the rejection, and hopefully will. After all, the trade dress for the Elvis Juice brand has absolutely nothing to do with Elvis Presley.

Anyone looking at that can of beer and thinking of a 1950's rock star isn't so much confused as potentially suffering from brain damage. To my original point, the common name "Elvis" ought to not be trademarked on its own in the first place, as that single common name does nothing to indicate any branding or origin on its own. "Elvis Juice" is unique and creative. "Elvis Presley" is an identifiable source name or phrase. But "Elvis" all on its own? That's just a name.

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