Virgin’s Trademark Witchhunt

Originally posted 2018-07-12 5:32:54

By Christina Severino |

virginThe expansion of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire over the past forty years has spurred many trademark disputes between the brand and hundreds of companies, big and small. Staffed with an army of IP lawyers, Branson has spent considerable time and resources in the never-ending battle of protecting his brand’s legacy. In addition to suing the companies directly in court, Branson has also flooded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with several petitions against trademark applications with similar likeness. Branson has also submitted cease and desist notices and pursued appropriate courses of action on an international level. Despite Virgin’s overzealous attempt to protect its brand and likeness, they may be taking it to an inappropriate level.

Several of Virgin’s claims have gone against companies which don’t even fall under any of their industries. For example, Virgin went after Chilean salad dressing producer Valle Grande in 2013, claiming the company’s phrase included the misuse of “virgin”. Another cab company based out of Arizona and Nevada was also sued (“Virgin Valley”). Additionally, Virgin Group has also asked the USPTO to extend the deadline for opposing a trademark application of a pending CBS television sitcom (“Jane the Virgin”). Virgin has even gone after nonprofits attempting to incorporate “virgin” into their brands. For example, a nonprofit educational foundation in California (“Las Virgenes”) was recently attacked.

Thus far, Virgin Group has reportedly gone after over 60 companies over trademark claims, spanning the food and beverage industry all the way down to the mom and pop small businesses and nonprofits. Even if the brand is regarded as “famous,” the term “virgin” seems to be so common that the company should not be able to have a definitive monopoly for its use. Other companies should be able to incorporate the term into their likeness, so long as such use does not inappropriately conflict with the markets Virgin takes part.


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