Many of us are aware of the game of beer pong. In essence, there are two teams of players and the aim of the game is to land a ping pong ball in a cup of beer at the other end of the table. If the ball lands in a cup, the opposing team have to drink the content of that cup. It’s a simple concept. Notwithstanding, the notion of beer pong has recently come under scrutiny in the English Courts.
In Breakthrough Funding Limited v Nearby Media Ltd  EWHC 2271 (Ch), Breakthrough ran an annual beer pong tournament as a marketing tool to attract young entrepreneurs under ‘Britpong Limited’. Nearby Media were engaged by Breakthrough to find sponsorship and run the 2017 tournament. All activities were carried out under the name ‘Beer Pong’. As such they entered into a non-disclosure agreement and were provided with confidential materials belonging to Breakthrough.
The relationship between the parties broke down. Consequently, Nearby Media took steps to set up a competing business, registering the domain name ‘barpong.co.uk’ but using the term ‘Britpong’ in advertising and social media.
UK’s position – High court decision
At first instance, the judge granted an injunction in favour of Breakthrough, prohibiting Nearby Media from utilising Breakthrough’s confidential information to provide them with a head start in the business. Nonetheless, Nearby Media went on to host a ‘Bar Pong’ event. Of course, Breakthrough won their claim and Nearby Media were found in breach of the injunction.
What about in the USA?
The recent decision shows the impact intellectual property can have in the games industry in the UK. Across the pond in the USA (where the game originated) the matter is equally as complex. In 2010, MillerCoors claimed that PB& J Design had infringed its trademark in relation to the game, by using a mark “strikingly similar…likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception in the market place”.
Prosecco Pong, Gin Pong…. WHAT NEXT?!
With beer pong bars and tournaments becoming more popular throughout the UK, it can only beg the question, what next?! It is hard to avoid the vast variety of ‘drinking’ pong games out there. Prosecco, gin, shot pong… There seems to be something to suit everyone’s alcoholic taste. It remains to be seen how the latest decision in Breakthrough Funding Limited v Nearby Media Ltd will affect the creation of these games in the future.