Vera Lynn stops name being used to market gin in trademark ruling

Dame Vera Lynn has thwarted plans for a “Vera Lynn” gin after a drinks company unsuccessfully argued the name was cockney rhyming slang rather than a reference to the singer.

Halewood International, which is behind brands such as Pogues Irish whiskey and Crabbie’s ginger beer, was ordered to pay the famed wartime singer’s £1,800 costs after its attempt to trademark “Vera Lynn” was thrown out.

Lynn, 102, had fought the move on the basis it could be considered an endorsement of the products. She has been using her name as an unregistered trademark for music and charity work since 1939.

The entertainer’s legal team told the hearing that she was an “extremely well-known singer and performer whose musical recordings and performances have been popular since the second world war. She is also very well-known for her charity work, including with ex-servicemen, disabled children and breast cancer.”

“Well-known personalities are known to endorse products, there will inevitably be confusion that the opponent has endorsed the applicant’s products,” they added.

The drinks firm’s lawyer, Tom Jones, countered that there would be no confusion despite Lynn’s celebrity. Selling alcoholic beverages, particularly gin, under the name Vera Lynn would be seen as a “play on words and little more”. “This is a use of language with which the buying public are familiar – the names Ruby Murray (for curry), Alan Whickers (for knickers) and Lionel Blair (for nightmare) are all examples,” he told the hearing.

Gin buyers were also young, Halewood argued, while the demographic Lynn resonated with was “much older”. Lynn is best-known for hits such as We’ll Meet Again, which came out in 1939 and The White Cliffs of Dover, from 1942. Two years ago she became the first centenarian to have an album in the UK charts. A decade ago she told the Guardian her guilty pleasure was “at 6pm I like to sit down with a glass of wine and a packet of crisps”.

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However the trademark hearing officer Al Skilton found in favour of Lynn ruling that: “The evidence falls a long way short of showing that the relevant public for alcoholic beverages will, on encountering “Vera Lynn”, see it as a rhyming slang reference for gin, rather than bringing to mind the entertainer Vera Lynn, who has been in the entertainment business for 84 years.”

In a statement, Halewood said it had noted the outcome of the case and “will not be pursuing the matter any further”.


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