Elvis Presley’s estate loses trademark battle over beer brand

Elvis Presley's estate has lost a trademark dispute with the makers of a British craft beer in a case that started in October 2016.

The King looks to be back in the building for beer company Brewdog, which has won the right to use the name "Elvis Juice" for one of its products.

BrewDog launched the drink, a grapefruit-flavored IPA (or India Pale Ale), in 2015 and claims that it is the U.K.'s third best-selling craft beer.

But in 2016 Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which manages Elvis Presley's name and official events, wrote to founders James Watt and Martin Dickie instructing them not to use it.

The pair responded by changing their first names to "Elvis" by deed poll, in the hope that doing so would demonstrate the lack of exclusivity of the name Elvis. But the U.K.'s Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled in favor of ABG last July, saying it was likely that drinkers would think the beer was an official product.

BrewDog founders James Watt, left, and Martin Dickie at their production facility in Ellon, Scotland.
BrewDog
BrewDog founders James Watt, left, and Martin Dickie at their production facility in Ellon, Scotland.

After an appeal, that decision has been overturned. "Put simply, the common element of Elvis is not enough on its own to make consumers think there is a link between the mark Elvis and Brewdog Elvis Juice," according to the decision document by the UKIPO's Phillip Johnson, seen by CNBC.

Watt said in an online statement: "This is a victory for common sense … This is a vindication of our belief in freedom and our dogged decision to appeal the initial ruling, and not go gently into the night."

Brewdog is celebrating by giving away a free drink to fans that turn up at one of its bars dressed as Elvis this weekend.

Craft beer is big business in the U.S., with around a fifth of the $107 billion brewing market being made up of independents in 2016, according to the Brewers Association. BrewDog has taken a sip of that market, building a brewery in Columbus, Ohio.