Coopers Brewery Tries To Lock Up 'Original Pale Ale' For Itself And No Other Brewery

from the mine! dept

This seemingly never-ending trend of trademark disputes in the beer and alcohol industries marches on. What with the explosion of craft breweries throughout the country, and the related adoption of a culture of cleverly-named companies and individual brews, it seems like there are as many court cases and threat letters as there are products on the market. What’s interesting is that most of these conflicts revolve around the very creatively-named beers and companies I mentioned before. But not all of them. Sometimes a company moves to trademark a term so laughably common that it strikes an evil chord throughout the rest of the industry.

Such as when a company like Coopers, a macro-brewery in Australia, sees fit to file for a trademark for “Original Pale Ale.”

Carlton & United Breweries, Lion, Asahi and Thunder Road have opposed a bid by Coopers to trademark ‘Original Pale Ale’. Coopers already held a trademark for Original Pale Ale when used in conjunction with its own brand: Coopers Original Pale Ale. But in February 2013, the brewer applied to extend this protection to cover all usage of the phrase.

You should be able to tell immediately why this has Carlton & United, and I assume other breweries as well, up in arms. First, the term “pale ale” isn’t by itself available for trademark because it doesn’t identify any brand. Instead, it’s a style of brew, one produced by many companies and individuals. It would be like trying to trademark “cheeseburger.” However, if Coopers wants to trademark “Coopers Pale Ale”, or “Coopers Original Pale Ale”, then fine, because it’s identifying the source and everyone else is free to use the other words as they see fit.

Adding “Original” to the trademark to cover the entire beverage industry makes zero sense. First, the word is descriptive in nature. Second, the mark is in use by many other companies already, including Carlton & United, and doesn’t serve as a source identifier. And, finally, no customer is going to be confused by the word into thinking one brew is another brand’s.

A CUB spokesperson said: “CUB understands why Coopers would be trying to achieve this but we respectfully believe the phrase should also be available to other brewers. CUB now has to make its case and it will respect the process whatever the outcome.”

A Lion spokesperson added: “We think it is counterproductive for the beer category for one brand to be able to claim ownership of a beer style.”

And it certainly can’t be said that the originators of trademark law intended on allowing individual companies to lock up generic phrases like this. I would expect the court will inform Coopers that it will have to live with its “Coopers Original Pale Ale” trademark.

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Companies: coopers brewery

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Comments on “Coopers Brewery Tries To Lock Up 'Original Pale Ale' For Itself And No Other Brewery”

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orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Original Pale Ale?

I was thinking that while Coopers is certainly being ridiculous, what the hell is it with everyone using the term “original” as if it meant a damn thing? Do they each have other pale ales, and need to distinguish their initial offering from later ones? Or is “original” a distinguished type of brewery product now?

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Wikipedia is a fount of knowledge

I seem to recall somewhere that British Brewers made such a beverage in the age of empire to survive the long shipping journeys to their far flung thirsty consumers.

India Pale Ale (IPA) was made with strong bittering hops, mainly because of the antiseptic qualities of those hops, so that it would last the long journey over sea. Hops themselves were not a standard in beer until someone realized that adding them to beer kept the nasty critters that made beer bad out of beer. The original beers were just bread, water and yeast, but somewhere along the line someone put hops in the beer and people started seeing beer (for its alcohol and hops) as a much safer alternative than drinking water from polluted rivers.

Pale Ale itself is just a class of beer, with many subclasses. The macro-brews are just trying their hardest to maintain the monopoly they once had due to prohibition and corruption in a world where they aren’t able to maintain their monopoly through prohibition and corruption (though in many cases the games they play with trademarks are corruption at its finest.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wikipedia is a fount of knowledge

Coopers may be the largest Australian owned brewery, but look at who is fighting them. Carlton United Brewery is part of the fosters group and fully owned by SABMiller – the second largest alcohol company in the world.
Lion is wholly owned by Kirin, a Japanese conglomerate with global interests, and Asahi,is Japan’s largest brewery

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wikipedia is a fount of knowledge

Coopers may be the largest Australian owned brewery

Which kinda proves my point. It is the same here in the US between AMBEV and SABMiller, with both trying to fight each other over “King of Beers” and “Champagne of Beers” (neither of which is true or even makes sense,) or trying to trademark “Lite”. Or AMBEV and SABMiller going after smaller brewers who dare call their beer Pumpkin Ale or whatever they have called them.

They can’t win by taste (although they have a huge marketshare of free and cold/cheap beer drinkers, they are still (h/t Eric Idle) like having sex in a canoe,) and they can’t attract people who have chosen to drink better beer from microbrews, so they use their marketshare and the crappy legal system (the higher courts) to make things difficult for the microbrews and each other.

Never tasted Coopers (probably would pass if it was offered,) and can’t stand Fosters (which I equate to the same word that I use for the American majors, piss.) Pretty much think the same of Asahi and Kirin (though they do make an awesome chocolate porter, but I consider that to be a fluke, since the only place I can seem to find it is in Tokyo at one of the many 7 & I-Holdings convenience stores and nowhere else.)

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