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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
9:03 AM

It’s a classic case of David versus Goliath.

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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.

32 comments

  • Red Barrel was OK - for a keg beer. The stuff that followed, just "Red" was dire. As is Red Bull. Great ideas from Stew. Great publicity management by the young, would-be, `brewers`. Perhaps their mummies & daddies have a pal in the Red Bull corporate machine?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, August 16, 2013

  • Surely the answer is just to call themselves The Redwell Street Brewery. I doubt Red Bull have copyright over Norwich or other British street names (we'll all be doomed if they do).

    Report this comment

    T Doff

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Will "Johnnie Walker Red Label" then ask Red Bull to change their name.

    Report this comment

    ggj666

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • So Redwell production and distribution started without the trademark application being completed? Who on earth advised this to be a safe way to proceed?

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Sounds like a load of bulls***t to me. If Red Bull drinkers confuse the two there must be something very strange in Red Bull.

    Report this comment

    norfolkngood

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • …..Just wondering if 'Watney's Red Barrell', brewed in Norwich, gave this Austrian firm an idea when naming their product? They seem to have taken the 'arre s' away and popped a 'u' in!...Hardly original!... Redwell Brewery of Norwich could name their products 'Red Bell', and 'Red Bill', and Red Ball, and have an energy sapper called ' Red Bullocks'.....But what wonderful advertising!!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Revive Watneys Red? Let's not be silly now! :-)

    Report this comment

    Jim Scrim

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

  • Even the 'Visually Handicapped' [AKA: blind] can easily tell the difference if the challenge were presented.....

    Report this comment

    Cajun

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • This is absolutely outrageous. Don't give in to the Red Bull bullies who can't even read well. I'll never drink a can of Red Bull again (I don't anyway). Instead I'll pop into the Norwich Tap House in Redwell Street for a pint of Redwell and raise it in solidarity.

    Report this comment

    Rich Hartt

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I had this in Canada. Despite the name I could still tell the difference!

    Report this comment

    James Doy

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Did you have a pint of bitter before writing that?

    Report this comment

    Capac Raimi

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

  • Isn't Redbull banned in the USA and France because of high levels of Glucuronolactone? Time for it to be pulled from the shelves of the local supermarkets pending investigation I think.

    Report this comment

    nathanp

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • It's said there is no such thing as bad publicity but reading this I am not so sure.An ideal situation for a British benefactor to back Redwell at court and stick-it to the pathetic Red Bullyboys!!

    Report this comment

    Dictate

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I can see how this came about from looking at the OHIM database of trademarks. Red Bull put in for their trademark to cover every type of beverage under the sun including cocoa and fruit juices. And then a feeling of innate superiority went to their head combined with low levels of common-sense.

    Report this comment

    G_of_Norwich

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • This reminds me of the case many years ago when someone tried to trademark the word 'tower' - as in computers. They lost. It seems to me that the jobsworth at Red Bull can't be terribly bright if he thinks they have trademarked the word 'red.' And not very literate either come to that. Has he never heard of google to find out if there is any Norwich connection in the name Redwell? On ITV news tonight Red Bull appeared to be back tracking (another term for panicking) over how silly they have made themselves look. I bet the sales of Redwell have gone through the roof!

    Report this comment

    andy

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I don't get this, Red Bull is two words and their banner uses lower case lettering, REDWELL is one word and their banner is all in upper case lettering. One is an energy drink, the other is a beer. The only possibilities are 1) Red Bull's thinking about brewing beer in the not so distant future and has decided to try and wipe the competition out early, 2) Red Bull’s brand enforcement manager is just doing this to hold onto his job 3) they are frightened that people will be ordering REDWALL in pubs instead of Red Bull 4) for some reason Red Bull wants REDWALL'S brewery. OK, if you say Red Bull & REDWALL do sound similar when uttered aloud but at the end of the day they are two radically different beverages. I think the only two thing REDWALL could do to avoid this but keep it's name is name is either putting an 's on the end or an St.

    Report this comment

    Paul Richardson

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • What an absolutely pathetic situation.There is no way that Red Bull have any kind of case.Every shopkeeper in Norwich should ban Red Bull from their shelves just on principle.People who buy Red Bull are totally gullible anyway.They are paying more for the name on the can than the actual drink itself.Be careful,Archant,that the Evening Standard doesn't come knocking on your door with a similar lawsuit.

    Report this comment

    Nexus_6

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I'd brew up a nice cup of Redbush tea and think about what to do next.

    Report this comment

    MaltnHops

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • What a load of rubbish. If people drinking Red Bull get it mixed up with Redwell they must be Illiterate or just plain stupid. I know which one I would rather drink.

    Report this comment

    turnover

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • So Redwell production and distribution started without the trademark application being completed? Who on earth advised this to be a safe way to proceed?

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Red Bull gives you Wings, Redwell just makes you unable to even take off

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Surely this is the best possible publicity for the company? Everyone and their dog will know about the product soon (BBC, Design Week already). The Dragon's would pay big time for such free marketing!

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I hope that Redwell don't give in to this nonsense.

    Report this comment

    blue tractor

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Red (Bull) s&&t!

    Report this comment

    Muggas Budal

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Are Red Bull implying that their customers and potential customers are so stupid that they cannot tell the difference between a sickly canned drink and a bottle of beer?

    Report this comment

    Carol Gardiner

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Could this be the reason why we have seen those awful Red Bull branded cars being driven around Norfolk? Redwell shouldn't really have nothing to worry about. If Red Bull think their customers may get confused between the two, then they obviously think their customers are a bit thick.

    Report this comment

    HappisburghHarry

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Stupidity is still among us....is Redbull thinking that people can't read or know how to choose a can over an obvious beer bottle???????????????

    Report this comment

    Cajun

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Sorry, it's REDWELL not REDWALL, therefore forget about point no.4

    Report this comment

    Paul Richardson

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • "similar from a visual as well from a phonetical point of view". Maybe phonetical if you're Austrian and don't speak English

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Aaaaand, never drinking Red Bull again.

    Report this comment

    Ty Hunt

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • Now is the time to invest in Redwell as Redbull obviously think they, Redwell, will conquer the world. Could now be the time to revive Watney's Red!

    Report this comment

    Jakarta Canary

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

  • I'd brew up a nice cup of Redbush tea and think about what to do next.

    Report this comment

    MaltnHops

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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