Monster Energy, maker of caffeinated liquid crank, has a long and legendary history of being roughly the most obnoxious trademark bully on the planet. It faces stiff competition in this arena of bad, of course, but it has always put up quite a fight to win that title. The company either sues or attempts to block trademarks for everything that could even possibly be barely linked to the term “monster” in any way. One such case was its opposition to a trademark registration for Monsta Pizza in the UK. Pizza is, of course, not a beverage, but that didn’t stop Monster Energy from trying to keep the pizza chain from its name. It lost that opposition, with the IPO pointing out that its citizens are not stupid enough to be confused between drinks and pizza.
And that should have been the end of the story, except that this is Monster Energy we’re talking about, so of course it appealed its loss. Its grounds for appeal amounted to “Nuh-uh! The public really might be confused!” Thankfully, Monster Energy lost this appeal as well.
However, the bid was rejected “in its entirety” at the Court of Appeal.
Chris Dominey, who founded travelling pizzeria Monsta with Christopher Lapham in 2017, said he had been “immensely relieved” to reach the end of the battle but the business remained in debt due to legal fees which could not be recouped.
He said: “It feels great, I have got my business back, and it does feel good to beat a ‘big bully’ so to speak. If you are confident that you are right you should go for it, but but I would tell other small businesses to beware that it does cost a lot of money.”
He’s not kidding. In all, Dominey’s business is out over eight thousand pounds in legal costs, having only been able to recover a fraction of what it cost him to defend his business against what appears to be a completely frivolous trademark opposition. That’s how trademark bullying works, of course. Large companies like Monster Energy rely on that onerous cost to be able to get away with its spurious demands. That simply is not how trademark law is supposed to work.
But in the modern age, there are ways a business can get its customers to help fight back against such bullying.
The business uses a monster-shaped pizza oven, which its logo is designed to represent, meaning a name change would have required considerable upheaval. Mr Dominey thanked people who contributed to a crowdfunding campaign which helped pay for some of the legal costs, and those who “gave us support and told us to keep fighting”.
The world needs more companies like Monsta Pizza fighting back against this kind of bullying to have a more global impact on trademark bullying. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy another Monster Energy loss.
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