The ballad Of John (Lemon) and Yoko

The ballad Of John (Lemon) and Yoko
16 Oct 2017

If life were to hand you lemons, just for a minute, imagine what you would do. Some may reach for the tequila, whilst many would make lemonade. Well, a Polish beverage company, Mr Lemonade Alternative Drinks, did just that. No problem there, so far so good. The problem arose, however, when they decided to name their drink JOHN LEMON and used an image of a lemon. So you may be asking “What’s the big deal? A lemon is a lemon is a lemon, especially for lemonade!” but add a pair of round glasses onto that lemon, place the lemon next to the words “let it be” (the title of the Beatles’ 1970 LP and album’s title track) and voila! you have a John Lennon lemon…..

Enter Yoko Ono, who threatened legal action against both the parent company and distributors of the drink. Her lawyers argued that the company’s use of all of these elements, together with a Facebook post by John Lemon Ireland showing a wall mural of her iconic singer husband John Lennon holding lemons displaying the company logo underneath, amounted to an abuse and misuse of “the legacy of John Lennon to sell their soda”.

Lawyers acting for the family business, formed five years ago and which distributes its beverages to bars and restaurants throughout the United Kingdom and numerous other European countries, denied exploiting the late star’s rights in an attempt to boost its sales. Despite this and the fact that the company’s JOHN LEMON trade mark was registered in 2014, two years before that of JOHN LENNON, the company has agreed to change the name of its drink to ON LEMON in a bid to avoid hefty legal fees and potential damages to the tune of €5000 per day and €500 per bottle sold.

Karol Chamera, founder of Mr Lemonade Alternative Drinks, stated that “all of us involved with this product are startups and we couldn’t take on someone who is worth many, many millions.”

The Polish company now has until the end of October to sell off any remaining stock of JOHN LEMON lemonade before it is obliged to affect the name change.

This is a clear example of the need to be cautious when planning both your branding and advertising strategies unless you have the ability to take on larger corporates or don’t mind spending millions to do so. If not, when life hands you lemons, by all means make yourself a drink, just don’t name it after anyone famous…..Cheers!

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Julia Stephens
Julia Stephens

Julia Stephens is a trade mark attorney and a director at KISCH IP. Julia has more than 15 years’ experience in the field of intellectual property, specialising in all aspects of trade mark law, trade mark searches, prosecution and litigation, copyright protection and enforcement, issues of unlawful competition and passing-off, advertising compliance and complaints, domain name searches, registration and disputes, trade mark portfolio management, review and audits, and due diligences.

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