Estate of AC/DC’s Bon Scott secures trademark victory

trademark rights

We came across this interesting snippet about a trademark rights lawsuit between a sports company and the estate of the rock band AC/DC’s lead singer, Bon Scott. His estate had registered his name for merchandising. Scott Sports thought customers might confuse the two brands. The court ruled in favour of the estate, but the case highlights the complexities of intellectual property and trademark law.

Reprinted from Scottish Legal News – 2023-07-12

The family of the late Bon Scott, frontman of AC/DC, has prevailed in a legal dispute with a sportswear brand over trademark rights to his name.

The estate of the Scottish-born rock icon had sought to register his name as a trademark for merchandise commemorating his legacy. The proposed line includes clothing, sunglasses, bags and wallets, bearing the name of the singer.

Scott Sports, a Swiss company, contested this application, arguing that the “Scott” trademark was too akin to their own and could lead to customer confusion between their products and items featuring Bon Scott’s name.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has now ruled in favour of the Bon Scott Estate, allowing the trademark to proceed to registration.

Bon Scott, born in Forfar and raised in Kirriemuir, Angus, moved to Australia at the age of six. Joining AC/DC in 1974, alongside Glasgow-born brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, the band saw monumental international success. Scott passed away at 33 in 1980.

In a written verdict, the UKIPO hearing officer stated: “I am satisfied that the marks are unlikely to be mistakenly recalled or misremembered as each other…I do not consider that the average consumer would overlook the distinctive and dominant word ‘Bon’ at the beginning of the applicant’s mark…Consequently, I do not consider there to be a likelihood of direct confusion…I consider that, having noticed that the trademarks are different, I see no reason why the average consumer would assume that they come from the same or economically linked undertakings.”

The Bon Scott Estate provided evidence of Scott’s fame in the UK, including details of AC/DC concerts and album sales figures. They further contended that Scott’s death following a night out in London was “a major international pop culture event and to this day remains a touchstone of rock and roll history.”

In contrast, Scott Sports argued their trademark had “distinctive character” due to their well-known brand status, boasting up to £15 million in annual UK sales. Having lost the case, Scott Sports were mandated to contribute £1,050 towards the estate’s legal costs.

Bon Scott, born as Ronald Belford Scott, is honoured annually at a three-day music festival in Kirriemuir called Bonfest.

His estate, managed by his two brothers and his nephew, declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

Help with your will

Bon Scott died at the age of 33. We don’t know whether he had a will or not. Many people put off making a will until they are older. But, while we don’t all live a rock-n-roll lifestyle, sadly accidents do happen. Cape Town law firm Simon Dippenaar and Associates Inc. can help you draw up your will to ensure your estate is distributed exactly the way you would like after your death, even if you don’t have trademark rights to protect. And we can help with your intellectual property issues too. Contact Simon now on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or email him on to discuss your needs.

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