January 20, 2017

The Hand Grenade: Powerful Drink, Powerful Mark

by Stites & Harbison, PLLC

We are fully in the throes of Carnival, a season of parades and other celebrations that begins on January 6 and culminates with Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday, will take place this year on February 28, 2017. An estimated 1.4 million people will flock to New Orleans to take part in Mardi Gras festivities. And many of those participants will partake in a beverage that has become iconic on Bourbon Street: a Hand Grenade®.

The Hand Grenade is an electric green cocktail that is typically served, you guessed it, in a container that resembles a grenade. Thanks to the wonders of federal trademark laws, patrons may only purchase an authentic Hand Grenade® drink at Tropical Isle and Funky Pirate locations on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. (Seriously, a big "thank you" to the U.S. Trademark Office for allowing the trademark owner to place such jurisdictional limits on the sale of this potent drink!) It is touted as New Orleans' Most Powerful Drink, a moniker that is also subject to a federally registered trademark. Its owners are so zealous in their protection of the brand that their website offers a $250 cash reward to anyone who furnishes information that leads to the identification and termination of any illegal use of the trademarks. http://tropicalisle.com/home-of-the-hand-grenade-new/the-hand-grenade/.

This powerful mark exists, in part, due to its owners' previous branding failures. The Hand Grenade was created in the mid-1980s by Pam Fortner and Earl Bernhardt, who owned a bar in the Quarter and were attempting to invent a drink to compete with the well-known Hurricane. They had originally developed a drink they referred to as the "Tropical Itch," which was served with a cheesy drinking straw that doubles as a back scratcher. And, had they immediately and vigorously protected that trademark, the Hand Grenade as we know it may never have been created. But it was not long before "Tropical Itch" drinks were being widely sold in the Quarter by an array of bars and restaurants. Pam and Earl continued to sell the drink, but they could not distinguish their original "Tropical Itch" from the knock-offs.

One day, Pam walked down to a Mardi Gras store—you know, the kind that sells beads and trinkets and such—to purchase those back scratcher drinking straws for the bar, and that is when she spotted a toy hand grenade. She immediately decided they needed a drink to go with this hand grenade concept. This time, however, Pam and Earl decided to handle things differently. They sought and obtained federal trademark registrations on HAND GRENADE, GRENADE, and NEW ORLEANS' MOST POWERFUL DRINK, among others. The rest is history.

During this Carnival season, celebrate in your own way. By all means, raise a glass of Abita, a mug of Coffee Au Lait, or even a plastic green cup containing an authentic Hand Grenade®. But, amid all the fanfare and parades, do not forget to protect and register your trademarks so that you may also raise the value of your brands.

Editor's Note: Pam and Earl also have a federal trademark registration on Tropical Itch but this brand is now considerably less valuable than the Hand Grenade brand.