The Virgin Group Disputes Trademark Application Of Tiny Olive Oil Company Vasse Virgin Because Of Course They Did

from the oily dept

The Virgin Group, headed up by Richard Branson, has something of a reputation for being promiscuous when it comes to trademark disputes over the word "Virgin." At times, it seems like whatever lawyers are working for Virgin actually think that any business using the word needs a bit of slapping around, even when there is essentially zero chance of customer confusion. In one case, in which Virgin had targeted a small jeans maker called I Am Not A Virgin out of NYC, the founder of that company quipped in a video whether or not Branson would think that people walking by "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" would be confused into thinking that Virgin Group had something to do with it.

Hahahahahaha... Oh, shit. It turns out Branson does think that's the case. Well, sort of.

[Virgin Group] believes customers might get confused and associate Vasse Virgin products with its renowned global brand. The local company has 23 staff and produces olive oil-based food, soap and skin-care products. Co-owner Edwina Scherini said Vasse Virgin recently tried to register a logo using the same name since 2009.

"The Virgin Group has objected to the application, claiming the right to exclusive use of the word 'virgin'," she said.
Yes, a tiny Autralian olive oil company is now in a trademark dispute with the Virgin Group and we all have to watch what we say from now on, lest we give Mr. Branson any ideas. Now Virgin Group claims on the record that the two companies do indeed compete with one another within relevant industries that would be covered by the trademark, but I can't for the life of me figure out where that's the case. Looking through some information on what Virgin makes, I don't find foodstuffs or olive oil making the list. Regardless, I find it fairly unlikely that anyone is going to confuse Vasse Virgin's oils with something created by the enormous Virgin Group, considering there are no common features in the logos or the marks themselves, beyond the use of the word Virgin. Couple that with Virgin's reputation for being overly protective, and this seems to reek of a legal department with too much time on its hands.

But Virgin says this has nothing to do with olive oil. It's about transportation services contained in the application.
Virgin Group Asia Pacific brand public relations and digital communications manager Elizabeth Gain said the trademark application "covers a very broad range of goods and services, some of which fall squarely into the core activities of the Virgin Group, in particular transportation services".

"Our concerns do not relate to use of the name in connection with olive oil products," she said.
If that were the case, the whole dispute could be easily dismissed with Vasse Virgin assuring everyone that they didn't have enough time in between making olive oil containers to create an international airline. That doesn't seem to be the case, though, as the demands from Virgin Group have been numerous.
Mrs Scherini said lawyers for the two companies have discussed the matter since 2013.

"Vasse Virgin agreed to a number of demands, apart from one that we felt may have the capacity to cause serious damage to our business in the future," she said. Mrs Scherini said the process had been "extremely stressful" emotionally and financially.
Branson and his team bullying a small, unrelated business through trademark? I am so shocked!

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Filed Under: olive oil, trademark
Companies: vasse virgin, virgin, virgin group


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  • identicon
    Smartalec, 4 May 2015 @ 9:29pm

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an expression used a lot in South Europe (where olive trees are usually grown) to describe olive oil that has not been mixed with other kinds of subpar oils.

    It is sought after in North Europe by those who can afford it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2015 @ 9:46pm

    "The Virgin Group has objected to the application, claiming the right to exclusive use of the word 'virgin'," she said.


    Huh. So when do they sue the Catholic Church over the term "Blessed Virgin Mary" and associated usages of the word 'virgin'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ollie (profile), 4 May 2015 @ 9:52pm

      Re:

      I have a feeling the catholic church could prove prior art in that case.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 5 May 2015 @ 12:27am

        Re: Re:

        Well, they would likely focus on any mention or depiction of the "Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven" which is clearly in conflict with aerial transportation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        I have a feeling the catholic church could prove prior art in that case.

        It would be trivial to prove prior art for Sleeping Beauty too, but that doesn't stop Disney from locking up folk tales collected by the brothers Grimm.

        A common word used for millennia, then some shithead with a lawyer steps in and claims ownership, stealing our cultural heritage. This is a shameful abuse.

        I hope this offends a lot of potential customers and costs Branson a lot of sales he'd have otherwise expected.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 8:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It would be trivial to prove prior art for Sleeping Beauty too, but that doesn't stop Disney from locking up folk tales collected by the brothers Grimm.

          Trademarks vs Copyright. Actually, I'd love to see Virgin claim copyright in this case, because they'd be laughed out of court. Unfortunately there isn't much of a court involved in these trademark application disputes. But I hope the government examiners and judges get a kick out of it.

          A common word used for millennia, then some shithead with a lawyer steps in and claims ownership, stealing our cultural heritage. This is a shameful abuse.

          That is primarily why I have a problem with companies being allowed to trademark common words, phrases, or colors. That used to be a no-no, but apparently the times have changed. Remember when Microsoft lost the trademark dispute to Lindows because the name Windows was too generic? I would figure that the name Virgin would be too generic too. If you make a symbol and use that symbol for your trademark, even if it has words in it, and then someone tries using your symbol to sell their goods, you have a good case. Otherwise it shouldn't be trademarkable.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John85851 (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I hope this offends a lot of potential customers and costs Branson a lot of sales he'd have otherwise expected.
          The problem is that companies lie Virgin Group as so big that even a few million protesters won't put a dent in their income. And can you get a few million people to stop using Virgin products and services?
          Otherwise, there's no downside to Virgin filing notices like this.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 4 May 2015 @ 10:15pm

    "Trade" "Mark"

    Normally TD is really good about showing the different marks and how there's no opportunity for confusion. This article did not include that.

    Normally TD is really good about showing how one company's trade is different than the other's. Here they both talk about transportation but it's unlikely the olive-oil aussies will be going into space, launching an airline, or pretending they are real-blonde real-white-teeth 50-year old billionaires.

    Normally TD does the research so when group B says "We agreed on all but one thing" we know what that one thing is so we can say "Mr. Branson's lawyers... how could you?" Yet, here... none of that.

    More facts would be helpful to get a mass of support for the conclusions arrayed here...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 12:23am

      Re: "Trade" "Mark"

      What is there to show when the dispute is over the word "virgin"? If you're interested, it looks like a square and some olive leaves, but is entirely irrelevant.
      http://vassevirgin.com.au/

      There isn't a lot of information regarding the specifics of the dispute, so there is not much to provide or on which to comment.

      Vasse Virgin has denied it has any plans to go into the airline, or, space travel business.

      "We have lodged the application in 2 service classes that Virgin are saying is their core business," said Mr Scherini.

      "It was meant to cover tours throughout the olive grove and workshops that we have in our factory where 7 people at a time learn to make skin care products."

      He said Vasse Virgin offered to drop this in its initial negotiations "along with not using specific colours, putting our logo on racing cars or airplanes etc."

      Virgin said talks are continuing between the two parties "to resolve these issues".

      Vasse Virgin said it is now putting together a submission to IP Australia that is due on 10th June 2015.


      Or another source:

      "Vasse Virgin agreed to a number of demands, apart from one that we felt may have the capacity to cause serious damage to our business in the future," she said.

      Mrs Scherini said Vasse Virgin later received a letter from the company "stating that unless we agreed to their demands, they saw no point in participating".


      Meanwhile, the specifics are again pretty irrelevant. There would never be any confusion. Regardless of the use case. Even if there were a Vasse Virgin Records, you'd have to be beyond a moron in a hurry to be confused. Virgin is simply being ridiculous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 5 May 2015 @ 12:31am

      Re: "Trade" "Mark"

      Well, this usage of "mark" seems to be more in the tomcat sense. This is not as much about confusion as it is about a pissing match.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2015 @ 2:28am

    Maybe "Virgin Group" should stop using the word Virgin. Just force them to change their name, no more confusion ever again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 4:11am

    Hope the company has the funds to fight back as it should be an easy win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lonyo, 5 May 2015 @ 4:33am

    Virgin foodstuffs

    Virgin Cola exists, and is sold in some SEA countries (e.g. Japan, Philippines) as well as a few other countries around the world. So they do have some links to foodstuff trademarks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 5:22am

    The absurdities of rich people

    I think I'm going to start a company called "Branson is not a Virgin" which would sell t-shirts with a big raised middle finger emblazoned on them - truth in advertising!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 5 May 2015 @ 10:15am

    Letter by Virgin to Vatican over Trademark Infringement

    [May 5, 2015] VIA CERTIFIED MAIL

    His Holiness, The Pope Frances; Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ and Sovereign of the Vatican City State
    The Roman Catholic Church
    00120 Via del Pellegrino
    Citta del Vaticano

    Re: Infringement of Trademark Rights of Virgin Media Group LTD.

    Dear Pope Francis:
    This law firm represents Virgin Group, (“Virgin”) in connection with its intellectual property rights. Your use of “Virgin”, “Blessed Virgin”, “Virgin Mary” and other derivatives is a violation of Virgin Group’s common law trademark rights. This letter constitutes Virgin Group’s demand that you cease and desist use of the word “Virgin” in materials including but not limited to The Holy Bible, published Catechism and writings of The Saints. You should immediately forward this letter to your attorney.

    Virgin Group offers Virginal Media and Transportation to consumers in Europe, the United States and other first world nations. Virgin Group has continually used “Virgin” (the “Marks”) as its brand name and in advertising campaigns throughout The Developed World. As a result of these efforts, Virgin Group’s customers, and the general public, have come to recognize Virgin Group as an established business marketing Virgin products.

    Recently, Virgin Group became aware of your use of it's registered “Virgin” trademark, which can cause confusion relating to our brand name and dilute it's value. As you are undoubtedly aware, your spelling of the word “Virgin” is exactly the same as the spelling used in Virgin Group’s Marks.

    Because of your use of “Virgin”, Virgin Group appointees have witnessed actual confusion in the market.
    The following incidents occurred on certain dates.

    - Vinyl shoppers at Past Blast Records, inexplicably found themselves pleading for Heavenly Graces.

    - During a transatlantic Virgin Air Flight, a pilot using the rest room was mistakenly assumed by some passengers to have been raptured. Worried passengers were seen offering prayers to the Virgin Mary, instead of CEO Richard Branson or other appropriate representatives of Virgin Group.

    - Virgin Group sponsored a Popaloosa concert where a female festival-goer was spotted abstaining from alcohol, designer drugs and nudity.
    An investigation later determined that glancing at Virgin Media's corporate logo had caused the young lady to ponder the Virgin Mary, instead of Virgin Media related products.

    - At this year's SXSW event, attendance was down at the Virgin Group sound-stage, even though the selection of anointed musicians was indistinguishable from other years. A Virgin Group funded audit found consumers confused by your use of our trademark “Virgin”.

    Virgin Group has powers granted within Investor State Settlement agreements to enforce its legal rights. You can avoid legal action by immediately ceasing and desisting from any and all use of the terms “Virgin”, “Blessed Virgin” and “Virgin Mary”. Additionally, you must execute a copy of this letter and send it to this firm within seven (7) days of the receipt of this letter.

    I recommend you consult with an attorney or higher authority before taking any action.
    If you or your attorney have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Sincerely,


    Sarah Dale
    Norvell IP LLC
    Intellectual Property Attorneys
    Offices: Northfield & Chicago

    CC: Client
    1 The Honourable Sir Richard Branson, Consecrated Sovereign of Virgin Group Holdings LTD

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I, Pope Francis personally and on behalf of The Roman Catholic Church, agree to immediately cease and desist from any and all further use of “Virgin”, “Blessed Virgin” and “Virgin Mary”. In the event this agreement is breached by me or The Roman Catholic Church, Virgin Group shall be entitled to costs, attorney’s fees, and collection costs related to any claims and/or action brought to enforce this agreement and shall be free to pursue the forfeiture of all assets, property and membership of the Roman Catholic Church within the Holy See and other first world countries. I certify that I have the authority to enter into this agreement on behalf of The Roman Catholic Church.

    By: Dated:



    Both individually and on behalf of The Roman Catholic Church.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 5 May 2015 @ 11:04am

    Fuck you, Virgin!

    Why is Branson so worried about losing his Virginity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2015 @ 6:53pm

      Re:

      Sir Richard, in all likelihood doesn't even know his lawyers are doing this. Some time ago (years? decades?) he had a memo cross his desk concerning infringement of the corporate logo and his shysters have been aggressively following up on the greatly expanded implied intent of that memo ever since.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2015 @ 7:46pm

    Virgin on the ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Edwina Scherini, 6 May 2015 @ 1:49am

    Virgin Dispute

    Thank you for the great story and the hilarious comments, we are going through a very stressful time and its great to be reminded not to take ourselves and the situation too seriously.

    If it wasn't so serious for us it would be a joke :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 6 May 2015 @ 1:55pm

      Re: Virgin Dispute

      I like to take opportunities like this to enjoy that underrated emotion called anger. Enjoy this angry moment. Be angry, and lambaste anyone and everything deserving with everything you've got in a holy war for justice! Live it to the fullest you can. Have fun! :-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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