Rock band Frontman’s lawsuit against British vodka makers dismissed
At the start of 2020, Ghost Drinks Ltd, a Cambridge-based company producing hand-crafted premium vodka, found themselves the subject of a lawsuit against Svensk Drama Pop (SDP), a company owned by Swedish occult rock band GHOST’s front man Tobias Forge.
Ghost Drinks first announced the conflict in May 2020 via a Facebook post, contending that Forge has been aware of the vodka brand since 2016 after approaching them to consider a collaboration. Ghost Drinks claimed they decided not to pursue this offer and heard no concerns from Forge or SDP regarding their branding for a further four years.
Ghost vodka was first launched in April 2015 by Ghost Drinks. SDP had registered the EU trade mark ‘Ghost’ under Class 33 (alcoholic beverages excluding beer) in November 2013, however, did not utilise the trade mark until February 2019 with the launch of their ‘Ghost’ gin. The period between registration and use was a key factor in the decision made by the Swedish Patent and Market Court on December 22nd 2020 to dismiss Forge’s case, as it exceeded five years and hence was invalid.
Furthermore, the court, which deals with intellectual property infringement disputes in Sweden, found the term ‘ghost’ to be a generic, internationally used and understood word, and therefore free for the British company to use. The court also noted major visual differences between the marks, whereby the vodka brand used an ordinary font as opposed to the more figurative mark on the bottles used by SDP; Due to the obvious differences, the court determined there to be no similarity and an average consumer would be highly unlikely to confuse the two brands, hence there was no breach of trade mark law.
The dismissal of SDP’s case means they are entitled to no compensation and Ghost Drinks Limited are free to trade as usual.
By Ellie King, student from Southampton Solent University.