Red Bull loses lawsuit because it doesn’t own the concept of cartoon bulls

The drink giant sued a Turkish soda company that dared to feature a bull in its branding.

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Three cans of Red Bull energy drink chilling in a copper ice bucket
Photo: Robin Marchant (Getty Images)

Red Bull—a company worth around 15 billion Euros (that’s $17,911,650,870)— decided to sue a local soda producer in Antalya, Turkey, because Red Bull apparently operates under the impression that it lays claim to all the world’s product-hawking cartoon bulls. And guess what happened to the energy drink juggernaut when it went to court? It lost. Score one for the little guy!

Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports that the bull branding brouhaha began in July 2019, when business owner Salman Akşun attempted to trademark the name “Zilli Öküz Gazoz” (which Google translates into “shrewish ox soda” but Hurriyet translates as “Jingle Ox Soda”) with the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office (TürkPatent). As part of its procedural review, TürkPatent published the application as a public notice, which is how it ended up on Red Bull’s radar.

Lawyers from Red Bull contacted TürkPatent and demanded that Akşun’s application be denied. In response, TürkPatent said that neither Zilli Öküz Gazoz’s name or logo could reasonably be confused with Red Bull’s branding, which in no way resembles the bell-brandishing Turkish bull. Essentially, Red Bull (co-owned by two men worth a collective $40.9 billion) was told, in legalese, to piss off.

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After TürkPatent decided to approve the trademark for Zilli Öküz Gazoz, Red Bull’s lawyers decided to sue the government agency. When the case was brought to court, it was quickly dismissed on the grounds that no one in their right mind could conflate the two logos, and that the name “Red Bull” doesn’t come close to “Zilli Öküz Gazoz.”

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Red Bull has the right to appeal the court’s decision, which it may very well do, as it’s had luck suing TürkPatent in the past. In July 2019, the energy drink company convinced the department’s Re-examination and Evaluation Board that it held exclusive rights to blue and gray rectangles, causing a Turkish company to lose its trademark of a square-shaped logo that, I must say, did not look remotely similar to Red Bull’s branding (but it was blue and gray and had four right angles). Then, in August 2019, the European Union Intellectual Property Office revoked Red Bull’s trademark of blue and gray rectangles, because seriously, who the hell do these guys think they are?