Monsta vs Monster
Monsta Pizza is a pop-up pizza company aimed at children and families to encourage healthier eating and to encourage children to make their own pizza. Set up recently by two frustrated dads from Wendover who struggled to find any decent restaurants that catered for children and adults equally, Monsta Pizza is based around a wood-fire pizza oven that looks like a monster. A friendly character designed by the pair to appeal to families. However, the world of business is not a friendly place and they now find themselves under attack by a huge, very unfriendly, corporate monster. Monster Energy Drinks, a well known corporate trademark bully, took exception to Monsta Pizzas trademark registration and filed an opposition to it through the UKIntellectualProperty Office (UKIPO).
WE WON!!! In July 2018, George Salthouse of the UKIPO ruled that Monster Energy Drinks had failed in their attempt to prevent us using the the name Monsta Pizza. It’s been a long and frustrating battle, which started in June 2017 when we applied to register our trademark, and finally ended in a tribunal hearing in London a few weeks ago and the decision last week. Monster Energy objected to our use of the word Monsta on all possible grounds. We decided to fight it rather than give up and rebrand for two reasons; firstly, we really like our name, it perfectly encompasses what we do and our customers like it too. And secondly, we believed their objection was wrong and we weren’t prepared to walk away from all our hard work just because a bully didn’t like what we were doing. I personally have done that before and its the only thing I’ve ever really regretted. We’re so pleased that common sense prevailed and incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement we received from everybody who heard about it when we finally made public what was going on.
Were we suprised to be contacted by Monster’s legal team?
We originally thought the objection was an automatically generated response which would go away once they took a closer look at our business, but it quickly became clear thatthey were taking it seriously. The well known international law firmBird & Bird based in The City of London had been employed by Monster Energy Company in California and Rodney Sacks, the billionaire owner of Monster Energy Drinks himself submitted evidence to the case.
What would our message be to other companies being pursued by Monster Energy?
W would say that you should always stand up to bullies and if you know you are right, don’t be afraid to take them on. You do need a good attorney on your side in these sorts of matters as its a complicated area. We started off trying to respond by ourselves but quickly realised we were out of our depth. We employed Michael Downing of Downing IP Ltd in Beaconsfield and he was amazing, without him we’d have had no hope.
However, a word of caution, it will cost time and money. The UK trademark court is designed to be low cost, but even so, this process has cost us over £10,000 and even though we won, the cost awards are capped. We have been awarded just £2100 towards our costs so we are over £8,000 out of pocket which is a huge un-budgeted expense for us when starting up. We have been trading for a year and its been very successful considering we came from nowhere, this has put an enormous strain on me and my family and severely restricted our business. I really feel that the rules should be reviewed to prevent this sort of conduct. Monster Energy unfairly take countless businesses to court over trademarks and although they lose many of their oppositions, many of their victims’ businesses are severely or fatally damaged as a result of their actions.
What’s next for Monsta Pizza?
Now that this is all over we’re roaring to go. Or as the Monsta says, ‘Pizzaaaaaargh!’ Its time to concentrate on feeding the bellies and minds of little monstas and their families up and down the land. You can catch us at various markets and events around London and the Home Counties which we advertise on our Instagram and Facebook pages or hire us for your own private or corporate event. If you’d like to have a go at making your own pizza, we’re running children’s pizza making workshops at Peterley Manor Farm’s “Feast on the Farm” event on the 6th & 7th October in Prestwood.
Chris Dominey & Chris Lapham
Editor’s note: Monster Energy Drinks filed an appeal in September 2018. Outcome awaited at press time.