Red Bull challenges Bullards Spirits over name dispute


Is that a bunch of nonsense ?!

That’s the take on a historic city gin company that vowed not to back down after global soft drink giant Red Bull told it its name was too similar.

Despite being 150 years older, Bullards has been accused by Red Bull of “creating a conflict of interest” because of an apparent conflict with the names of the companies.

Basically, Red Bull, which has only been around for three decades, believes that a century-old company should give up its famous name.


Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards Spirits, and family shareholder John Bullard, unhappy with Red Bull
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

John G Bullard is a family shareholder whose great-great-grandfather Richard Bullard founded the company in 1837.

And he’s determined the company will fight the energy drink giant – and win.

Mr Bullard said: “My point is that Red Bull should go back and leave us alone to continue to provide a quality product.

“We don’t want to fight with Red Bull. They are the ones who are trying to come to us to drastically limit the brand. They have the nerve to try to make us pay for products that are already registered.

“I see it primarily as the opportunism of a big company trying to weigh on it with a lot of lawyers behind it.

“We are not doing anything wrong and nothing illegal. We are just building a business and hopefully bringing fun and happiness to our thousands of customers.”

Russell Evans, boss of Bullards, says the legal hassles have already cost his company “thousands” and that he has lawyers prepared and ready if Red Bull is ready to take the case to court.

“They’re actually the ones copying us because we’re 150 years old and they started in 1987,” Evans said.

“I think we are victims of our own success as we grow and develop beyond Norwich.

“Our profile was raised by opening a store in Covent Garden and showing on TV across Norwich City.”

A letter from Red Bull – shared with the Evening newspaper – showed three pages of products that the Austrian company had listed asking for them to be removed.


Russell Evans, founder of Bullards, with brand records marked that Red Bull wants Bull

Russell Evans, founder of Bullards Spirits, with brand registrations marked that Red Bull wants Bullards to waive at its own expense.
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

The letter went on to state that Bullards had seven days to sign a letter drafted by Red Bull’s attorney to resolve the issue.

It remains unsigned.

Mr Evans said: “It’s up to them to decide whether it goes to court. These things can take a long time and it could be next year.

“It’s not in anyone’s best interests to go to court so it’s about persuading them.

“Most people just say ‘crikey, this is a huge business, you just have to give’ and I say ‘why should I?’

“It’s about justice, not profit. My dad always said ‘if someone is harassing you, hold on to them’.”


Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards, and John Bullard, crush Red Bull cans as Red Bull are accu

Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards Spirits, and family shareholder John Bullard, crush Red Bull cans as Red Bull accuses Bullards of conflict of interest with brand names
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

The conflict has been described as “absorbing energy” for the Bullards who have “ambitious plans” to develop.

This is not the first time Red Bull has challenged a Norwich brand. In 2013, Red Bull demanded that Redwell Brewing withdraw its trademark application.

This pitted a world market leader with thousands of employers against a small brewery on the outskirts of town.

Bullards and Red Bull staff could even go head-to-head in London, given that the latter’s headquarters are just around the corner from the company’s new London store, Norwich.

The Norwich gin distiller has also opened a boutique in the Westfield Shopping Center in addition to its stores in Chantry Place and Jarrolds, which Bullards said prompted Red Bull to stand up and pay attention.

Red Bull has been contacted for comment.

What is the most historic brand? You decide …

Bullards has been well known for supplying beers, wines, and spirits to the city since the mid-19th century, spanning six generations.

After being founded by Richard Bullard in 1837, the company was passed on to his son Sir Harry Bullard who was a two-time Member of Parliament for Norwich.


Bullards Brewery workers.  Image: Archant

Workers at the Bullards brewery. Image: Archant

Described by current family shareholder John G Bullard as a “great benefactor” to the city, Sir Harry was good friends with mustard maker Jeremiah James Colman.

This was despite the fact that the two Norwich MPs were political rivals, with Bullard a Tory and Colman a Whig.


Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards, and John Bullard, shareholder, at the Bullards store in Cha

Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards spirts, and John Bullard, family shareholder, at the Bullards store in Chantry Place.
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

Richard Bullard founded The Anchor Brewery, Bullards and Sons which has established itself throughout East Anglia.

The brewery closed in 1966, but the company was relaunched as Bullards Spirits in 2015 through Russell Evans.

He produced a ‘Goin Up’ commemorative gin to celebrate Norwich City’s promotion to the Premier League in 2021 and has a close connection with the club.


Bullards gins.  Photo: DENISE BRADLEY

Bullards gins lined up in Norwich
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

Red Bull was created in 1987 and sponsors some sporting events.

Are other East Anglian names threatened by Red Bull?

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