A Pretoria High Court has found a South African energy drinks producer in breach of the internationally renowned Red Bull trademark and ordered it to cease using the trade name Mad Bull.

Rizo Investments (Pty) LTD from Johannesburg aggressively launched Mad Bull in 2000 and was shortly thereafter approached by representatives of the Austrian-based Red Bull to desist from using the name. It failed to do so, leading to the court action.

According to Glen Heneck, in-house legal representative for Red Bull, more than 1 billion cans of the energy drink were sold in 75 countries worldwide last year, 20m of which were marketed in South Africa.

Red Bull brought the application, based on the registration and use of its trade mark and while Mad Bull freely accepting the local and international Red Bull label, denied its choice of name and product-get up was calculated to either deceive or confuse.

It argued that the word bull was one that was incapable of legal protection on the basis that one of the main ingredients in some energy drinks was the amino acid, "taurine" and that the Latin word for bull was Taurus.

This argument did not hold water with Justice P J van der Walt who found in favour of Red Bull and ordered Rizo to cease marketing the product and to pay all Red Bull's legal costs, while the issue of the quantum of damages was referred for trial.

Rizo is appealing against the ruling and, according to MD, Brian Altriche, believes it can have it overturned.

Heneck described the verdict as "a triumph for common sense, commercial justice and the South African judiciary".

He was circumspect on the damages issue. "Red Bull is not a litigious kind of company. Provided Mad Bull abides the court ruling, immediately and comprehensively, we are confident that the whole affair can be sorted out without too much pain or bother".

If Red Bull did file for damages, Heneck said an amount of R2 million was the preliminary figure estimated in loss of profits by Red Bull. This would need to further verification.