Bushy's Brewery, Isle Of Man Govt. Have Trademark Hissy Fit Over Two Letters: TT

from the seriously? dept

If there is one lesson you take away from writing about trademark law and disputes, it’s how simple it would be to avoid a massive percentage of the conflicts by holding trademark applications to a far higher standard then they often are. If the world’s many trademark offices kept in mind that the entire point of this form of intellectual property is supposed to be keeping the public confident in their ability to determine the source of a given product or service by its trademarked branding, then it would be obvious that approved trademarks should be unique and distinct.

As a counterexample to that line of thinking, consider the current dispute going on between Bushy’s Brewery, located on the Isle of Man, and the Manx government, all over the government’s trademark for exactly two letters: TT.

The company was hit with a legal warning by the Isle of Man government over the government’s ‘TT’ trademark, registered at the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Since 1998, Bushy’s has operated a beer tent at the Isle of Man TT Race, a motorsport event held annually since 1907 in the crown dependency, which is located in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland.

According to broadcaster ITV, the government’s Department of Economic Development issued a warning in response to controversy over the brewery’s use of the “iconic initials” (TT) and said that it needs to protect the famous TT brand.

Okay, some background for those of you non-racing enthusiasts. The Isle of Man is a small nation off the coast of England. It’s main tourist attraction is a motor race called the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, or “TT” for short. For the island’s economy, it’s a big deal. The brewery, also located on the island, has been a constant participant at the race, with a tent and sponsorship contribution. Bushy’s Brewery registered a trademark for “TT” to cover beer, clothing, and catering services in March of 2015. The company was apparently taken aback when only recently the Manx government fired off its warning letter over the trademark it holds on the “TT” mark.

“Bushy’s has been told by the Isle of Man government that it can’t use the letters ‘TT’ because it’s trademarked. Bushy’s is synonymous with the TT, its beer and the beer tent.

“It also employs local people year-round, and contributes to the Manx economy. If the government believes in supporting the local economy, it should stop threatening legal action and let Bushy’s … use the letters ‘TT’.”

Basically everyone involved in all of this is being a bit ridiculous. The Manx government, were it so concerned about the brewery’s use of the letters “TT”, ought to have objected to the trademark when it was first applied for. To allow the registration first and to only later fire off a warning letter smacks of dysfunction. It’s also unlikely that anyone is going to go to Bushy’s beer tent and somehow think it’s an arm of the government-operated event. Bushy’s, meanwhile, registered and somehow attained a trademark on two letters. Acronym for a race or not, that itself is absurd. Which brings us to the Intellectual Property Office, which somehow saw fit to approve a trademark registration for exactly two letters in the English alphabet. Had it not done so, none of the parties would be in this mess.

But this is what you get when something like trademark law is allowed to stray so far from its original purpose.

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Companies: bushy's brewery

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Comments on “Bushy's Brewery, Isle Of Man Govt. Have Trademark Hissy Fit Over Two Letters: TT”

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13 Comments
nartreb says:

“the Isle of Man is a nation…”

Not exactly, and thereby stems one part of your confusion. The Isle is a “crown dependency”, technically not part of the UK and not a “territory” either, but the UK handles many of their affairs. Notice how the trademarks in question were filed with the _UK_ Intellectual Property Office?

There’s no particular reason to think the Manx government would even be aware of the brewery’s trademark application to the UK IPO. “To allow the trademark first…” is none of the Manx government’s doing.

Secondly, I know nothing about this race nor about this beer, but the quote from Bushy’s sure sounds to me like an admission that the brewery is using “TT” to refer to the race. You can argue about whether it’s wise to give a trademark-holder exclusive rights to things like T-shirts where the value stems from the mark itself – because the mark is no longer functioning as a symbol of origin- but that ship sailed long ago.

Oh, while I was typing this, it looks like the brewery and the Manx gov’t have reached a deal in principle.

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“”the Isle of Man is a nation…””

“Not exactly, and thereby stems one part of your confusion.”

Well, not quite. The ‘Nation’, as its first meaning, “It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.” – quoting AD Smith’s ‘The Ethnic Origins of Nations’.

BTW: It’s all been settled in a amicable fashion, per the IOM news: “Following a joint meeting between the DED and Bushy’s yesterday (Thursday), it was announced an agreement has been reached in principle to allow the continued use of the Bushy’s TT trademark under a proposed co-existence agreement.”

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

I've tried it...

I’ve actually tried the stuff. Okells is better, I assure you. Bushy’s is too bland for me.

As for the TT, talk about shooting yourself in the foot! These are sponsors, for goodness’ sake! Somewhere in there is a lawyer counting £££ and laughing like a loon. Is it time to talk about this kind of thing as IPR hysteria? Because that’s what it is. Someone having hysterics at the notion that “their” “intellectual property” is “being stolen” by another entity. That someone needs to read up on actual trademark law instead of throwing a fit because someone else used two letters that they also use.

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