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Paul O’Grady in dispute with brewery over Lily Savage beer

TV actor Paul O’Grady is reportedly involved in a dispute with a Liverpool brewery after it named a beer after his drag queen alter ego Lily Savage.

According to reports, Dead Crafty Beer Company produced a Bakewell Tart IPA called “Savage” to celebrate International Women’s Day, with the beer’s artwork including a cartoon likeness of Savage. The London law firm Beck Greener subsequently sent a letter to the brewery warning that the “name and persona of Lily Savage” was created in the 1970s and alleging trademark infringement against the company, on the basis that it had not obtained permission to use it.

The brewery rebranded the IPA as “Salvaged”, with profits going to an animal sanctuary. Owner Vicky Morgan told the Mirror newspaper that she was shocked to receive the letterand hoped that would be the end of the matter.

O’Grady responded, saying: “I wouldn’t mind if this brewery showed me the courtesy by asking me if they could use the name, particularly when it comes to promoting alcohol”.

Complaints of this nature can be brought as a trade mark infringement claim, where registered trademarks are involved, and/or as a claim in ‘passing off’. This is a type of legal action which can be brought by someone who has a reputation and goodwill in a brand or product, where someone else makes a misrepresentation (intentional or otherwise) leading the public to think that their product is part of or endorsed by the brand, and which results in or threatens loss or damage to the brand.

Formula One driver Eddie Irvine for example succeeded in a passing off action some years ago against Talksport Ltd, after the company issued leaflets containing a doctored photograph of Irvine associating him with their radio station.

More recently, in 2013, the pop star Rihanna successfully sued in passing off over the unauthorised sale of T-shirts bearing her image in Topshop stores. Her claim was upheld on appeal in 2015.