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BrewDog threatened lawsuit against plan for bar with ‘punk’ in name

BrewDog threatened legal action to prevent a bar from using the term “punk” in its name, it has emerged, a day after the brewer blamed “trigger-happy” lawyers for a similar dispute that sparked a social media backlash.

The brewer, which has been a vocal critic of the behaviour of large corporations, raised an objection to plans by music promoter Tony Green to open a bar in Leeds called Draft Punk.

Green, who says the name was a tongue-in-cheek reference to French dance music act Daft Punk, said the “intimidating” threat contravened the punk movement spirit that BrewDog claims to espouse.

“They can’t own punk, that’s the whole point,” he said. “It’s inherited, it’s British culture.”

In the letter, seen by the Guardian, BrewDog warned that it had a “well-established beer under the name of punk”, a reference to its Punk IPA beer, which it has been brewing since 2007. The brewer also raised money under its “Equity for Punks” scheme.

Although BrewDog owns the “punk” trademark in relation to beer only, rather than pubs or bars, it said the fact that the bar planned to serve beer meant its trademark rights would be infringed.

Law firm Lawrie IP, representing BrewDog, wrote: “Our client is very concerned that provision of food and drink services under the mark Draft Punk would give rise to a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace, including a likelihood of association with our client’s earlier mark Punk.”

The letter, sent in December last year, also said the bar would “take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to” BrewDog’s own punk-related products and demanded the bar withdraw its application to use the title Draft Punk.

The dispute emerged just a day after BrewDog blamed “trigger-happy” lawyers for sending legal threats to a brother-and-sister duo who wanted to open a pub called the Lone Wolf. BrewDog forced the pub pair to change the venue’s name – to the Wolf – but founder and chief executive James Watt has since backed down after a social media backlash that saw the company labelled “just another multinational corporate machine”. However, the pub’s owners have decided to stick with the site’s new name, despite BrewDog’s retreat.

Green, who eventually abandoned his plan to open a bar, said he was disappointed by the company’s attitude and had been unable to fight back due to a lack of funds.

“When we got the letter from them we were a bit gutted. We can see why they sent it but we replied and said it was nothing to do with their beer,” he said.

He and his business partner had spent about £4,000 on PR advice and making drafts of a logo, he said.

“We asked how they were going to compensate us and they just said we had to cease and desist or they’d take us to court. After all of it, I just thought whatever, we can think of another name. But how dare you own that word, you can’t have it. You’ll get no sob story from us but they were just nasty and heavy-handed from start to finish.”

BrewDog did not return requests for comment.