Our Commercial Disputes Solicitor, Nick Lewis, looks at how Netflix managed to protect their brand and avoid bad public relations.

There’s been a lot in the media recently about big name brands coming down hard on small businesses for alleged trade mark infringement and passing-off:

-Brewdog in relation to the 'Lone Wolf' pub in Birmingham

-Red Bull making demands of the family-run Old Ox Brewery in Virginia

While it goes without saying that the protection of intellectual property is of paramount importance to any business, and something which should be taken seriously, it can have an adverse effect when it comes to public relations. The two examples above led to a media outcry against both Brewdog and Red Bull – with Red Bull being labelled as a ‘Bid Red Bully’.

The main issue for the public was that these large multi-national companies were making demands of small family-run businesses who could in no way match the funds spent on legal fees.

Netflix was recently faced with a similar dilemma. A themed pop-up bar appeared in Chicago based on the streaming giant’s hit show ‘Stranger Things’. However, instead of going in with a heavy-handed approach, Netflix’s lawyers, recognising the fact the operators of this small business were clearly big fans of the show, decided to make light of the situation by including references to the show, such as:

-‘Unless I’m living in the Upside Down, I don’t think we did a deal for this pop-up’

-‘[the] demorgorgan is not always as forgiving’

‘We’re not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you’

The letter quickly started doing the rounds on social media, and people loved it. 

Although the approach was light, there was still a serious undertone with Netflix requesting that the bar be shut down after 6 weeks and for the owners to request permission in the future.

A great example of how to balance brand protection with public relations!