Judge Stands For No Bull in Trade Mark Case

Energy drinks company Red Bull GmbH has triumphed in a High Court trade mark dispute after taking exception to the strap line ‘NO BULL IN THIS CAN’ being used on cans of a rival brew.

The company had been accused in court of adopting a ‘bullying and high-handed’ strategy in trying to block sales of the rival beverage, which was marketed under the ‘Bullet’ brand. However, Mr Justice Arnold cleared Red Bull of accusations of bad faith and agreed that its trade marks had been infringed by Sun Mark Ltd. when it marketed ‘Bullet’ with ‘NO BULL IN THIS CAN’ emblazoned on the outside.

Red Bull argued that Sun Mark’s ‘Bullet’ drink infringed its own registered ‘Bullit’ trade mark. However, Sun Mark and the shipping company Sea Air & Land Forwarding Ltd. accused the market leaders of having no intention of using the ‘Bullit’ trade mark in the UK market and acting in bad faith.

The judge ruled that Sun Mark’s ‘Bullet’ brand did infringe Red Bull’s ‘Bullit’ trade mark and that the ‘NO BULL IN THIS CAN’ strap line took ‘unfair advantage’ of the larger company’s reputation.

Red Bull had ‘contemplated the possibility’ of using its ‘Bullit’ mark, probably in connection with energy drinks and possibly within the UK, and the judge was not persuaded that the company had acted in bad faith.

Sun Mark had earlier denied that its ‘NO BULL IN THIS CAN’ strap line could be read as having a derogatory meaning. The company argued that the only message intended was that ‘there was no rubbish in the can’.

Sun Mark has announced its intention to appeal the decision.

Contact Andrew Hornsby for advice on any intellectual property matter.