Elvis has officially left the building. Well, Elvis Juice has, anyway. Earlier this week,
ever-iconoclastic craft brewers BrewDog lost their legal fight against Elvis Presley's estate, all over a beer that they'd named after the King.
In 2015, the Scottish brewers launched a grapefruit-infused IPA that they named 'Elvis Juice,' and it quickly became a top seller. (It's not clear how the beer got its name; late-period Elvis wasn't testing the seams of his jumpsuits because he enjoyed a citrus-heavy diet, but whatever). Shortly after its release, attorneys for the Elvis Presley estate sent BrewDog a copyright infringement notice over the use of the name Elvis.
BrewDog co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie responded by legally changing their names to Elvis to show that Presley wasn't the only Elvis out there. ("We would like to recommend that Presley's Estate diverts its attention to another potential source of quick remuneration: a brewery that calls itself 'The King' of beer," Dickie said at the time.) Weirdly enough, that tactic didn't work.
The Presley Estate balked at BrewDog's attempts to register 'Elvis' and 'Elvis Juice' as trademarks in the United Kingdom and, after a hearing, the Intellectual Property Office agreed.
"Put simply, and notwithstanding that Mr Presley died nearly 40 years ago, he was/is such an iconic figure, that I would be very surprised if many people, including those at the younger end of the average consumer age spectrum, had not heard of him," hearing officer Oliver Morris said in a statement. "On the basis that Elvis is a relatively uncommon name, and given that Mr Presley is the most famous of Elvises, I consider that most average consumers, on seeing the name Elvis alone, are likely to conceptualise that on the basis of Elvis Presley."
BrewDog now owes the estate £1,500 ($1,934) in court costs and will either have to change the beer's name or ask if the Presley estate will grant them "official permission" to use it. (Fat chance there, fellas.)
It seems like BrewDog would understand the value of protecting its trademarks, since it has threatened lawsuits over some of its own branding. BrewDog owns the trademark for the word 'punk' in relation to beer, as it makes a Punk IPA, and has a longstanding crowdfunding campaign called "Equity for Punks." In March, when a music promoter in Leeds, England announced plans to open a pub called Daft Punk, BrewDog's own attorney sent a strongly worded letter discouraging him from doing so.
"Our client is very concerned that provision of food and drink services under the mark Draft Punk would give rise to a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace, including a likelihood of association with our client's earlier mark Punk," BrewDog's attorney wrote, according to The Guardian. (The plan for the bar was eventually scrapped.)
That same week, BrewDog's attorney challenged a brother and sister in Birmingham, England who wanted to name their own newly opened pub Lone Wolf, because BrewDog launched a range of spirits called Lone Wolf. Watt eventually spoke out, calling the dispute the result of "trigger happy" attorneys, but the pub renamed itself The Wolf anyway.
So maybe BrewDog understands what Team Elvis is trying to do. MUNCHIES has reached out to BrewDog for comment on the matter but has not yet received a response.