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Va. craft brewery battles Red Bull in name, logo lawsuit

A pint of beer from Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, Va. (Photo: WJLA/Jay Korff)

ASHBURN, Va. (WJLA) – Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn has only been open for about seven months, but the family-owned business with 10 employees is battling Red Bull over its very identity.

“We make craft beer, small batch, artisan craft beer,” said Old Ox President Chris Burns.

Last month, Red Bull filed a challenge with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opposing Old Ox Brewery’s name and logo.

Red Bull, seller of billions of energy drink products annually, says consumers are likely to confuse the names and logos of the companies because they are so similar.

Burns says, “They are at completely opposite ends of the beverage spectrum. They are liquids and that’s about as similar as they are.”

In fact, Burns says the company is named after one of the oldest roads in Loudoun County.

And as far as the logo, he says, “It’s an ‘O’ with an ‘X’ in it, as in ‘X marks the spot.’ It has absolutely nothing to do with an animal.”

But according to Red Bull’s legal filing, “An ‘ox’ and a ‘bull’ both fall within the same class of ‘bovine’ animals and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers. In addition, an ox is a castrated bull.”

Burns says instead of expanding his extra capital, he is feeding legal fees meant to fend off Red Bull.

“Not only is it absurd that it would make it laughable, but it’s incredibly detrimental to our business. It’s hard to function,” said Burns.

Burns says he is willing to battle a company he now calls Red Bully.

“It’s either change our identity or fight this. And we’re not giving up,” he said.

Responding to a inquiry by ABC7,{ }Patrice Radden of Red Bull sent the following statement: "Red Bull has not sued anyone. Brands, big and small, seek to protect their trademarks every day. All we are asking for is to allow the administrative process at the US Patent & Trademark Office to run its course and we remain hopeful that a fair settlement can be reached by both parties."

Burns says that representatives of Red Bull made a number of requests of Old Ox Brewery prior to filing the Notice of Opposition to Old Ox Brewery's trademark application. He says Red Bull wanted Old Ox Brewery to make a number of insurances including never using the color red with the image of a bovine and never producing an energy drink or a soft drink.

Burns says he would gladly agree to never make an energy drink but would not agree to never producing a soft drink. He says some breweries produce root beer for patrons who don't drink or are serving as a designated driver.

Burns concludes that this trademark process, if it runs its course, could take a year or two.

Click here to read Old Ox Brewery's letter to Red Bull.

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