Legal bullfight over energy drinks ends in victory for coffeeshop owner

Photo: Brandon Hartley
Photo: Brandon Hartley

Judges in Amsterdam have ruled in favour of Dutch cannabis cafe chain The Bulldog in a legal wrangle over compensation from energy drinks maker Red Bull over lost earnings.

The two companies first locked horns in 2003 when Red Bull lawyers told The Bulldog to stop selling an energy drink it had brought out under its own name. Red Bull cited trademark infringement and claimed the name would cause confusion among consumers.

After a number of court cases in which first The Bulldog and then Red Bull were victorious, the case ended up in the High Court. On March 14 2017 the court decided that despite both brands containing the word ‘bull’, the different designs – a dog for The Bulldog’s drink and a bull for Red Bull’s – would be enough for consumers to tell the difference.

Bulldog owner Henk de Vries then proceeded to take out a sequestration order of €49 million on Red Bull – the amount he claimed he’d lost by being unable to sell his energy drink for 20 years – pending the outcome of a damages claim.

An attempt by Red Bull to dispute the order was quashed by the judge in an Amsterdam court on Wednesday.

Looking at Red Bull’s ‘aggressive litigation approach’ it was no wonder De Vries stopped producing his own energy drink, business magazine Quote quoted the verdict as saying.

The compensation demanded by De Vries ‘is high but justified’, the judge said. The sequestration order makes sense, he said, because a claim for damages can drag on for a long time and there is no telling if Red Bull will still be in the red when it is concluded.

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