Lawyers for Richard Branson’s Virgin firm have forced a small Alpine spirit maker to change the name of their gin after claiming it breached copyright.
Austrian Anton Vogl from Guglhof in Hallein, Austria, had patented the name of his “Vir Gin” with the Austrian patenting authorities in 2010 and started putting it on the market a short while later.
But eight months after it went on sale he got a legal threat from the British company
He said: “I was surprised that such a big company would take the trouble to bother with such a small firm as mine and also to take on my Vir Gin trademark so aggressively. I believe that I didn’t really breach their trademark, the most you could say is that I sailed near to it.”
He was advised by lawyers that the virgin legal action had little chance of success but on the other hand if he lost it could have been expensive, and therefore he had decided to back down and renamed his gin.
He said: “In the initial request they made it clear they wanted it settled on a friendly basis and the was no financial cost involved, which resulted in me deciding to back down.”
His product has now been renamed “Gin Alpin” and “Vir Gin” is no longer on the market.
He admitted that also during the legal negotiations samples had been requested by London and flown out. He said: “It was requested that we send them a sample of the product – they wanted to see what it looked like, they said. Perhaps they also wanted to try it, I’m convinced that the bottle probably doesn’t have any more contents.”
He said he doesn’t have any hard feelings about the legal action: “I haven’t really noticed a negative impact on my sales, if anything it probably had the opposite effect and may well have helped to boost sales a bit.”