Billionaire Richard Branson and Copyright – International Intellectual Property Law – Case Study #8

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:20:55

Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, has just sent a cease and desist letter to “I Am Not A Virgin,” a small New York eco-friendly denim label, claiming that the company’s name infringes on his copyright (Antunes).

The small label was founded three years ago by Peter Heron and makes their garments from a blend of virgin cotton, and a variety of recycled materials, including plastic bottles, food packaging, and discarded X-Ray films. After holding his trademark for three years, he must now deal with Branson’s cease and desist order (Hubbert).

Branson’s lawyers claim that if consumers walk past a store window labeled “I Am Not A Virgin,” they won’t be able to discern between the denim label, and the Virgin Group. Heron does not agree, but Branson insists that confusion is a great possibility (Hubbert).

Branson’s lawyers however offered suggests for alternative names for the label, such as “I Am Not Chaste,” or “I am Not Pure.” Heron’s vitriolic response to these suggestions was “I guess I could rename my jeans Not Made By Richard Branson.”

This case has come to a great surprise, seeing as Virgin’s sales were greater than $21 billion last year (Antunes). Branson’s decision to go after the small company seems to be more of a strange power move rather than genuine concern for copyrighted names. A global powerhouse with a seemingly immortal and “hip” brand should not be threatened by such a small up and coming company. If Virgin wins the case, the implications could be dire. Claiming ownership over something as collective and recyclable as a word could pose detrimental barriers for up and coming businesses already struggling to compete with multinational mega corporations like Virgin.

A copyright is a right to prevent others from using your originally authored work. To protect their creative ingenuity, as well as to ensure that they are the only ones who can make use of and profit from their material, authors of artistic or intellectual works have their material copyrighted. Those who have copyrighted material have many exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce the work, distribute copies to the public for sale, and perform the work. Since anything you create can be copyrighted, copyrights can protect endless types of creative work. Some examples are recorded music, books, software codes, video games, paintings, plays, or sculptures.



Antunes, Anderson. “Billionaire Richard Branson Threatens To Sue Eco-Label ‘I Am Not A Virgin’ For
                Copyright Infringement.” Forbes.N.p. 31 Jul. 2012. Web. 2 Aug. 2012.

Hubbert, Laura. “Eco-Unfriendly: Richard Branson set for legal battle with fashion line ‘I Am Not A
                Virgin’.” Telegraph. N.p. 26 Jul. 2012. Web. 2 Aug. 2012. <