Red Bull was seeking a name change

Red Bull was seeking a name change

It was the turn this week of a small brewery in England to wander blinking on to the front pages, in a classic David-and-Goliath story that also fanned the Twitter flames. Though, as it turned out, not all was as it first seemed.

Norfolk's Eastern Daily Press (EDP) reported yesterday (14 August) that Norwich's Redwell Brewing had received a letter from energy drinks firm Red Bull asking the brewer to change its name because it was too similar to the Austrian company's own trademark. “Consumers ... will easily consider the sign ‘Redwell’ as a line extension under Red Bull,” the letter reportedly stated.

Redwell's directors, who named their company after a local street, claimed to be shocked at the letter, as they had no plans to encroach on Red Bull's energy drinks market.

What happened next may have shocked them more. Twitter users soon picked up on the EDP article and rallied to Redwell's cause, branding Red Bull another corporate bully picking on hard-working independents. The hashtag #redbullies was incorporated and messages flooded in from all over.

One of Redwell's four directors told just-drinks that a name change would be “disastrous” for the company, which was only launched a few months ago. The Independent, meanwhile, played up the vast difference in scale between the two companies - Red Bull with 9,000 staff, Redwell with eight.

The coverage equalled the amount given over to another small UK brewer challenged over its name by a large drinks firm. In May, Anheuser-Busch InBev wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Belleville over concerns the London microbrewer's brands would be confused with its Belgian fruit-flavoured beer Belle-Vue.

On that occasion, Belleville eventually reached an agreement with A-B InBev, who had possibly been swayed by a deluge of online support for the smaller firm.

Yesterday, Red Bull seemed initially reluctant to comment on the Redwell story, telling some press outlets it would not discuss ongoing legal cases. When Red Bull did issue a statement, however, it turned proceedings upside down. 

As reported in just-drinks, Red Bull said that, far from being a bully, the company had no dispute with Redwell over its beer trademark in the first place.

“Red Bull has long been willing to allow Redwell to maintain its mark for beer so long as they do not use it for energy drinks. Redwell's solicitor has agreed to this,” it said.

Redwell's directors, meanwhile, said they were unaware of any settlement, casting doubt on the day's events.

Today, Redwell cleared up that doubt, saying that Red Bull has decided to allow it to keep its name. “Red Bull have removed all restrictions except one - that we will never be making an energy drink,” Redwell tweeted. 

Last word can go to the Redwell directors, who found themselves in the middle of a mini media storm.