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Bull vs. Ox: Red Bull Takes on Beer Company to Protect Its Intellectual Property

A small Virginia-based beer manufacturer called Old Ox Brewery is defending itself in a trademark challenge against energy drink company Red Bull - all because Red Bull argues that the word "ox" could cause consumer confusion.

Trademark infringement occurs when there is an unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark in connection with goods or services in a way that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods or services. Here, Red Bull is concerned that consumers who know and purchase their energy drink will purchase Old Ox beer and become confused, thinking Red Bull actually made the beer. If you are faced with a potential trademark issue, consulting an intellectual property lawyer can help you clarify your rights and options moving forward.

Red Bull is an Austrian company that sold $6.5 billion in energy drinks in 2012-and it has flexed considerable muscle in addressing use of this bovine-related logo. When Old Ox was first getting started, Red Bull explained that it had minor concerns about the logo. Red Bull's logo depicts two bulls butting heads. Old Ox's logo is a large "O" and a smaller "x" with the company name written below. Red Bull followed up a month later and asked Old Ox to limit use of its brand logo, including not using the colors red, silver, or blue. Red Bull also asked Old Ox to agree not to manufacture any soft drinks, such as root beer. It is common for beer makers to make small batches of soft drinks. Old Ox refused.

In February 2015, after approximately ten months of discussion about Old Ox's logo and the potential for trademark infringement, Red Bull filed an opposition to Old Ox's logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Red Bull is concerned that consumers will mistake the ox for a bull oxen are a sub-genus of the cattle species of which bulls are a part. In its opposition to Old Ox's application, Red Bull explained that the ox and the bull fall within the same bovine family "and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers." Despite Old Ox's promise not to produce any energy drinks, Red Bull has insisted on aggressively protecting its brand.

For its part, Red Bull takes its brand very seriously, as it has devoted an entire website page to "brand protection." Red Bull explains, "We own a huge global portfolio of registered and unregistered trademark rights and none of these trademark rights, or any confusingly similar signs, can be used without Red Bull's consent." The page also warns that purchasing counterfeit Red Bull means the consumer deceives himself or herself; may be supporting criminals or terrorists; and could lead to tax increases.

To learn how to protect your brand, contact the experienced Orange County trademark lawyers at MYERS BERSTEIN LLPtoday.

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