Close Menu

Campari loses trademark row against village microbrewery

Dark Sky Brewery, a microbrewery in the North Pennines, has won a trademark dispute against drinks giant Campari after an 18-month battle over its name.

Campari loses trademark row against village microbrewery

Steve White, a former acting police officer and crime commissioner in Middleton-in-Teesdale, set up his microbrewery in 2022 after deciding to turn his hobby into a business.

After submitting an application to trademark his business name, inspired by the dark skies of the North Pennines, White receive a legal letter from Campari, accusing him of infringing the trademark of its Skyy Vodka.

The Group was founded in 1860 and today is the sixth-largest player worldwide in the premium spirits industry. Its global distribution reach includes over 190 nations around the world, with key brands including the likes of Aperol, Appleton Estate, Campari, SKYY, Wild Turkey, Grand Marnier, Espolòn, and Courvoisier.

White decided to fight Campari’s claim. He told local press at the time: “I’m just a little one-man-band trying to brew beer for local people.”

White’s argument was that one was a spirit distilled in the US, while the other was a beer brewed in a village in North East England. He also dismissed suggestions from Campari that the two logos were similar, pointing out the different spelling of Skyy.

Wat ensued was an 18-month legal battle, which has only just been concluded.

Officials from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have thrown out Campari’s objection. White has also been granted registration of Dark Sky Brewery as a trademark.

In its ruling, the IPO said it “did not consider that the common element, being the word Sky, is so strikingly distinctive that the average consumer would expect only one undertaking to be using it”.

As reported by The Telegraph, the ruling went on: “Beer is a long drink with lower alcohol content, whilst vodka is a short drink with a higher alcohol content. In my view, they will be perceived as relating to different sub-categories of alcoholic beverages.

“In terms of the purpose, they may all be consumed by the same users for a pleasurable drinking experience (which may include the intoxicating effects of alcohol).

“The method of use will also overlap at a very general level to the extent that they are all drunk. However, the applicant’s goods are a long drink, likely to be consumed slowly, whereas the opponent’s goods are a short drink, likely to be consumed as a shot or mixed with a soft drink to create a long drink.

“There may be some degree of competition between the goods, but given the differences between them, I do not consider that the competitive choice between beer and vodka is commonly made. Taking all of the above into account, I find that there is a low degree of similarity between the goods.”

White, who has spent a few thousand pounds fighting the dispute, said he was “so pleased that common sense has prevailed”.

He said: “I couldn’t believe it when I first discovered they were seriously objecting to the name of Dark Sky Brewery. They were claiming customers would get confused between a global vodka brand and a pint of bitter which is only for sale in a handful of places in the north east of England.

“It made no sense at all but they are a multinational company with a billion dollar turnover and so the odds were stacked against me. But there was a principle at stake, and I am a very stubborn person and so I decided I had to fight on.”

White is now looking to expand his business, supplying more pubs in the area. “It is not a global takeover,” he said, with expansion stretching as far as Barnard Castle in County Durham.

Campari declined the drinks business’ request for comment.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No