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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Bike manufacturer Scott loses trademark case against late AC/DC singer’s estate

Bon Scott’s family had sought to register the legendary frontman’s name as a trademark for merchandise – but Swiss company Scott claimed it could lead to “customer confusion”

“Businessman, when you make a deal, do you know who you can trust? Do you sign your life away, or do you write your name in dust?” Swiss bike manufacturer Scott Sports may have been advised to pay more attention to the lyrics of AC/DC’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’, the first single from the Australian band’s classic 1977 album, Let There Be Rock, after losing a legal dispute with the family of Bon Scott over trademark rights to the legendary frontman’s name.

The estate of the Scottish-born singer, who died in tragic circumstances in 1980 at the age of 33, just months after AC/DC’s long-awaited American breakthrough with Highway to Hell, had sought to register his name as a trademark for merchandise, including a line of clothing, sunglasses, and bags, Scottish Legal News reports.

However, cycling and sportswear company Scott – which supplies the bikes currently being raced at the Tour de France by Team DSM – contested the application, claiming that the ‘Scott’ trademark was too similar to their own and could potentially lead to “customer confusion”, ostensibly between their range of aero bikes and wallets bearing the name of a hard rock icon.

> Football superstar Lionel Messi wins seven-year trademark battle against Spanish bike brand Massi

During the case, Scott Sports argued that their trademark had a “distinctive character” thanks to the brand’s well-known status and its annual sales of £15 million in the UK.

On the other hand, Bon Scott’s estate pointed to evidence of the frontman’s fame in the UK, where AC/DC secured their first international success outside Australia in the mid-1970s, and where a three-day music festival commemorating his legacy, called Bonfest, is held every year in his hometown of Kirriemuir.

The family further contended that Scott’s untimely death, in the back of a car following a night out in London, was “a major international pop culture event and to this day remains a touchstone of rock and roll history”.

> Café Roubaix to keep name after Specialized back down

This week, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled in favour of the late singer’s estate, managed by his two brothers and nephew, allowing the trademark to proceed to registration.

In a written verdict, the UKIPO hearing officer said: “I am satisfied that the marks are unlikely to be mistakenly recalled or misremembered as each other. I do not consider that the average consumer would overlook the distinctive and dominant word ‘Bon’ at the beginning of the applicant’s mark.

“Consequently, I do not consider there to be a likelihood of direct confusion. I consider that, having noticed that the trademarks are different, I see no reason why the average consumer would assume that they come from the same or economically linked undertakings.”

Scott Sports have also been ordered to contribute £1,050 towards the estate’s legal costs.

While Bon Scott may have spent his short but iconic career singing about down payment blues and how it ain’t no fun waiting ‘round to be a millionaire, in 2023 a Swiss bike firm certainly learnt that it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll…

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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11 comments

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boardmanrider | 12 months ago
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What is it with bike companies? Remember when Specialized took offence to a Canadian bike cafe called 'Cafe Roubiax'? They went all out on the poor fellow with cease and disist because of their Roubaix frameset. The backlash from the internet was so strong that eventually the CEO of Specialized at the time made a public apology and I think even visited the guy, a veteran of the Gulf War.

Sorry to the lawyers out there, but you really need to some prospective sometimes and not go for the win all the time.

 

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Off the back replied to boardmanrider | 12 months ago
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The Specialized issue was more to do with the fact they only use the name Roubaix in cycling under license from Fuji themselves so were in no position to dictate. 

Quite how anyone can try to lay claim to a place name to begin with is ludicrous. 

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mark1a replied to boardmanrider | 12 months ago
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This was even more ridiculous than it sounds, as it turned out that Specialized themselves didn't own all of the rights to the name Roubaix, they used it themselves under licence from Fuji. In their defence, I suspect it was a crack team of IPR lawyers on retainer looking for trouble, it soon ended when the CEO stepped in. 

They haven't always got it wrong, they (rightly IMO) stopped NASCAR driver Robby Gordon using this for his energy drink brand. 
 

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jaymack replied to boardmanrider | 12 months ago
1 like

It's not the lawyers who require some perspective it's the clients. You can tell the punters 'till you're blue in the face that their course of action is bananas but if they're determined to do it there's nothing that can be done for them as a certain footballer's wife will attest.

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Off the back | 12 months ago
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Well done to Bon's family. There was obviously no way Scott Bikes were going to Walk all over you. 

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Sriracha | 12 months ago
4 likes

They'll just have to face the music.

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 12 months ago
1 like

Sriracha wrote:

They'll just have to face the music.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
2 likes

You're back in ... grey?

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 12 months ago
1 like

chrisonatrike wrote:

You're back in ... grey?

Well, it's a long way to the top

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RoubaixCube replied to hawkinspeter | 12 months ago
1 like

Have a drink on me

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Bmblbzzz replied to chrisonabike | 12 months ago
0 likes

Or in drey?

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