Red Bull brand enforcement manager, Jansjorg Jeserznik, wrote to Norwich, UK-based craft brewer Redwell requesting it to withdraw a trademark application for its name - chosen because of Redwell Street in the city - complaining that the names were too similar and would confuse consumers.
Hinting that Red Bull would consider legal action if Redwell did not comply, Jeserznik explained that since both trademarks share the word ‘red’ there was a risk of consumers mistaking ‘Redwell’ as a Red Bull line extension and of harm to Red Bull’s trademark.
“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 Red Well are confusingly similar from a visual…[and] phonetical point of view,” he wrote.
Red Bull could ‘bully’ other firms…
Patrick Fisher, Redwell director, told BeverageDaily.com that the brewer hoped to sort out the issue soon through its solicitors, but said he thought it was “insane” that anyone could trademark the word ‘red’, which he said Red Bull had done across every UK product category.
“As you can imagine, many companies use ‘red’ in their branding, and could be open to Red Bull bullying them too,” said Fisher, whose brewery employs eight staff, compared with Red Bull’s 8000+.
“It’s with the solicitors now and we’ve got until the end of August to strike a deal, although so far the deal Red Bull has proposed is definitely not suitable,” Fisher added.
“Hopefully we get this sorted by then, or obviously Red Bull will clearly use their financial might to try and drag us through the courts,” he said.
Fisher also disputes whether anyone could mistake Redwell’s beers for Red Bull, but said fighting legal proceedings brought by Red Bull would be a “bridge too far” since the brewer has already spent thousands on the issue.
Neither was a wholesale name change viable, given the cost in terms of packaging and branding, he added: “I think the cost would be astronomical – we’ve grown 50% in our first seven months.
"But this would stunt any plans for future growth and possibly take away some of the new staff who we’ve employed during that time.”
‘Our main market is London’
Red Bull’s aside, Fisher said things were going “fantastically well” for Redwell, which only brought its first lager to market in April, and claims to be Norwich’s first inner city brewer in over 30 years.
“We brought our brewer across from Sweden…and he’s won ‘lager of the year’ and ‘ale of the year’ awards multiple times there. So when we did launch the product it was perfectly right for market.”
Redwell brews include a pilsner, 5% original lager, 4.6% ‘steam’ lager, a British-style pale ale, and a 6% Indian Pale Ale (IPA) in a nod towards the US-based ‘new wave’ that’s currently hitting the UK.
“Our main market is London – 70% of product, the rest to East Anglia and to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester,” Fisher said.
“We’re a fairly large craft brewery – we’ve got nine 10-barrel fermenting vessel tanks and they are full and working at full capacity. Now we’re looking at getting some 20-barrel tanks in and growing again – if nothing negative happens with Red Bull," he added.
Red Bull had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.