Oh, Look, Two Breweries Work Out A Trademark Issue Without Lawyers, Threats, Or Asshole-ery

from the good-guys dept

Trademark disputes are often petty, heated, and vitriolic. We know this. Interestingly, it often seems as though the temperature level for trademark disputes is inversely proportional to how valid they are: the pettiest disputes are often the most heated. And we cover enough of those sorts of things that it can often seem like no companies out there approach a trademark issue in any other way.

But that isn’t the case and it’s probably useful to highlight when companies get this right. Enter Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, makers of a beer it has named “Abominable.” Another brewery, Fremont Brewing Company, has produced a very popular seasonal brew for some time that it has entitled “Abominable Winter Ale.” In other words, there is an actual potential trademark issue here, with a naming convention and vernacular unique enough to quite possibly result in some confusion. So Hopworks set its lawyers to work, right?


Don’t get your barley in a bunch; Fremont Brewing says it was a friendly conversation and not an acrimonious kerfuffle. In a Twitter statement, Fremont Brewing said:

“Our friends at @HopworksBeer trademarked the name before us and we worked out a friendly transition. Now, we have to brew a beer together:)”

Collaboration, not litigation!

In other words, Hopworks contacted Fremont to let them know of the issue, behaved like human beings, and everything has now been worked out. All without the cost of billable hours and court fees, too. It’s almost like there can be a common sense approach to these types of trademark issues, one that doesn’t require lawsuits.

The craft beer industry in particular should be both particularly conducive to this sort of friendly interaction and particularly in need of it. It’s been noticed for some time that the industry’s explosion has poised it for an explosion in trademark disputes. Unless, that is, the typically friendly breweries take their cues from Hopworks and Fremont on how to settle them.

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Companies: fremont brewing, hopworks urban brewery

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Comments on “Oh, Look, Two Breweries Work Out A Trademark Issue Without Lawyers, Threats, Or Asshole-ery”

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Anonymous Coward says:

My experience with lawyers...

Here’s the simple fact behind the legal profession: Neither the lawyers on your side of the table, nor the lawyers on your opponent’s side of the table have any interest in a fast sensible resolution of any dispute. Both plaintiffs attorneys and defense attorneys will say and do things they know will piss off the other side. Yes, even *your* lawyer will do this; even when it is not in your best interest.

Acrimony pays.
More arguments = more billable hours.

It’s true in IP law. It’s true in just about every field of law there is.

killthelawyers (profile) says:

Re: My experience with lawyers...

Well, my anecdote of being a lawyer is this: generally, if you are coming to a lawyer with an issue, it’s not something that was just going to magically go away. While I have some seen some monumental pissing contests, I’ve also seen quite a few issues resolved long before a lawsuit was filed and many others resolved shortly after one was filed.

Litigation is rarely dependent on milking a few cases for every dollar, it’s based on getting enough cases to be busy every moment of the day. In the latter model, putting out fires as efficiently as possible is good not bad. It makes the client happy, which leads to more cases, even in small things like this because its usually an insurance carrier, not the actual company, paying the bills. It also lets us maintain our sanity because, really, we don’t like staring at the same case forever.

djx says:

Tried this twice

My organization has twice seen infringements and tried to deal with them this way.

In both cases we used a lawyer, but were quite soft in terms of our request, asking the other party to change but being open to their taking quite some time to do so, so as not to burdensome to them. That is, trying to make it as low-cost and painless to change.

In the first instance, the other party was great – thanked us for the heads up about confusion, which was in neither of our interests, and changed their name after some number of months, timing the change with a big event they were planning anyway so they could rebrand in a splashy way. I wish them well.

The second time, the other party denied any possible confusion, said they were a start-up/small business so should get some slack, insisted they’d done careful legal due diligence on the name but couldn’t find the name of the attorney who had helped them just a few years before. Basically BS and lies. Not cool.

That we want to escalate to litigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

This is actually not an isolated case in the craft beer world. A few years back Avery Brewing and Russian River both had a beer called the same name. And the beers were even of the same style.
After a phone call they decided to make a collaboration brew. It was well received and they are still making this beer today. It’s called “Collaboration not Litigation Ale”.



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