By CT Jones
Looks like a “Purple Rain” flavor of Bang Energy Drink just isn’t in the cards. A panel of judges in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of Prince’s estate last week, preventing Bang’s 2020 attempt to trademark the phrase for a line of energy drinks and dietary supplements.
The energy drink company, best known for its constant TikTok collabs and cameos with influencers, street interviewers and stunt YouTube channels, famously sponsored the Hype House before the group’s Netflix show and subsequent implosion in popularity. At the heights of its popularity, Bang Energy made a name for itself as the drink of internet stars. On TikTok, the hashtag #BangEnergy has over 18 billion views and the company’s page has 1.5 million followers. Users on TikTok could often be seen ranking their Bang collections, with the eventual goal of collecting every flavor.
According to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s Aug. 23 ruling, Bang’s trademark was denied because “Purple Rain” is still widely associated with Prince and the late artist’s song, even without the use of his name or image. If the trademark had been allowed to take place, the judges said the prevalence of celebrity sponsorships and licensing deals, combined with Prince’s fame, would have implied a false connection between his estate and the energy drink.
“We find on this record that Purple Rain points uniquely and unmistakably to Prince,” the ruling read.
In their argument, Prince’s estate noted that “Purple Rain” is not a phrase commonly used or defined in the English dictionary and would only incur damages on the estate and brand if used by Bang. The estate, made up of a $156 million deal between Prince’s heirs and a talent management company, was only recently settled after a years long legal battle and notoriously guarded with the late musical icon’s image.
“Prince’s music, art and trademarks hold a special place in our society and culture,” attorney L. Londell McMillan, who represents a portion of the estate, told Billboard. “Purple Rain is a Prince mark and brand known worldwide. Please respect these unique assets or suffer at your own peril.”
The judges specifically cited a double blind survey provided by the estate that found in a test of 1,200 individuals, over 66.3 percent of respondents said they associated the phrase “Purple Rain” to Prince, or one of his songs, movies or albums.
Bang Energy argued that Prince’s Estate may have gotten a different answer if they had asked the survey participants about “Purple Rain’s” connections to energy drinks, but it wasn’t enough to convince the panel — who ruled firmly in favor of Prince’s Estate.
In a statement to Billboard, Bang Energy CEO Jack Owoc deferred to the court’s decision, saying “we greatly respect Prince and his estate and will not ‘rain’ on their parade,” he said. “Maybe we can negotiate a deal in the future that is mutually beneficial to both parties.”
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