Harry Potter and the disappearance of Vertic Alley – The short lived revamp of Melbourne’s Imperial Hotel

Another Wizarding battle akin to that of Harry Potter and Voldemort has been fought and won by Warner Bros over The Imperial Hotel in Melbourne.

The Melbourne pub owned by Australian Venue Co had to shut its doors earlier this month for renovations after Warner Bros used the strongest charm in their spell book – intellectual property (‘IP’).

The famous pub is conveniently located near the weekly showings of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Princess Theatre.

Realising an opportunity, the owners, transformed the venue into a magical Harry Potter themed destination named “Vertic Alley”.

It was adorned with the tools of wizards (i.e. spell books), quotes from the books and colours and imagery similar to those seen in the Harry Potter films.

The menu featured items such as “Harrys Platter” and “Buttah Beer”, an obvious imitation of the famous Butter Beer drink featured in the books, movies and at the three Harry Potter Wizarding Worlds.

Warner Bros, who are familiar with defending the Harry Potter franchise from infringers, promptly enlisted their defence against the dark arts team to prepare and issue a cease and desist letter demanding Australian Venue Co  take down the decorations as they infringed its IP rights.

Warner Bros have registered trade marks and a range of intellectual property protection for the Harry Potter franchise which prevents the use of the Harry Potter theme without Warner Bros’ consent.

Warner Bros require a contract with any potential users of their IP to ensure that is “managed correctly”, they retain the benefit of their IP and the value of their IP portfolio is maximised.  Their swift action resulted in a very quick resolution of this matter, without suffering considerable damage to the Harry Potter brand.

IP protection is integral to any business and can be used to protect logos, colour schemes, designs and themes.  An essential feature of having the rights to any IP is ensuring that it is protected from infringement by other parties for the following reasons –

  • Brand protection – the misuse of your brand could be potentially damaging for your reputation
  • Maintaining value – the value IP is largely determined by how well it is protected, if your intellectual property is regularly infringed and copied by others then its value will diminish
  • Public perception – consumers may not always be able to distinguish if the IP is associated with your business and it may result in them purchasing or supporting an imitating business
  • Profit – the use of your IP by others means that you are not retaining the financial benefit

Owning IP rights is like owning a wand – it’s an excellent weapon to have but if you are a muggle or a wizard who doesn’t know any spells then its value is significantly diminished.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ask first – don’t utilise intellectual property of another company without first seeking their consent
  • Protect your IP – keep a vigilant watch on the market place to ensure other companies  aren’t imitating or infringing your IP

If you want to protect the intellectual property of your business like Warner Bros or seek permission to use someone else’s, like The Imperial Hotel could have done, then Macpherson Kelley can assist. We have an experienced IP team capable of assisting with all of your intellectual property needs.

To find out more about protecting your IP please contact Mark Metzeling of our Intellectual Property Team.

This article was written by Mark Metzeling – Special Counsel, Commercial, Intellectual Property and Trade and Nicola Stewart – Graduate Lawyer, Commercial.