A tiny start-up company from east London has become embroiled in a trademarks row with the widow of Beatles icon John Lennon over the sale of a lemonade called John Lemon.
Yoko Ono Lennon has taken legal action to stop sales of the soft drink, saying it infringes on the John Lennon EU trademark and the legacy of her late husband’s name. But the Tower Hamlets’ company that distributes the product in the UK says its name is not linked with the legendary peace activist and member of the Fab Four.
Karol Chamera, 30, founder of Mr Lemonade Alternative Drinks Ltd, based in Bow, said: “They are trying to find a case because of similarity of the name, but these are two different names, two different brands. “All of us involved with this product are start-ups and we couldn’t take on someone who is worth many, many millions.”
The John Lemon trademark was registered by the Polish manufacturers of the lemonade in 2014 and their solicitor confirmed the John Lennon trademark application was not filed until 2016.
Mr Chamera insists UK sales of the product have not been linked to John Lennon’s name or image, but says fighting the threatened law suit was impossible due to the threat of paying Yoko Ono’s legal costs.
But lawyers for the late Beatles’ widow told the East London Advertiser the lemonade brand had used John Lennon’s image and other references to him in its European marketing on social media.
They sent a copy of a Facebook post by John Lemon Ireland showing a large wall mural of Lennon holding lemons with the brand’s logo underneath. Other adverts show a pair of round glasses, synonymous with the famous Beatle, next to the words ‘Let It Be’ and featuring the brand name John Lemon. This advert was posted on the Facebook and Twitter pages of Mr Chamera’s company Mr Lemonade Alternative Drinks.
Joris Van Manen, of law firm Hoyng Rokh Monegier, which acted for Yoko Ono, said: “They were abusing and misusing the legacy of John Lennon to sell their soda. I believe they are now going to call the drink On Lemon instead, which is much better.” A lawyer for the Polish manufacturer of John Lemon said the company and its distributors across Europe were sued by Yoko Ono. Lawyer Hugo Bałazinski said his client was “surprised” by the claim, but decided to reach a settlement which meant the company could continue in business and would rebrand the John Lemon products. Yoko Ono’s lawyers threatened action against the Polish manufacturers in March this year.
Letters were also sent to distributors, including Mr Chamera, warning they faced costs of 5,000 Euros per day or 500 Euros for every bottle of lemonade sold if they violated the disputed trademark. Mr Chamera, who runs his business from his flat in Bow, now has to sell all his stock of the artisan lemonade before a ban comes into effect on October 30.