Long Trail Brewing Sues East Coast Apparel Company Over 'Take A Hike' T-Shirt
from the seriously,-take-one dept
The last time we checked in with Long Trail Brewing, the Vermont brewery was busy fighting a Minnesota brewer that had dared to put a stick figure of a hiker on its beer can. It seems that rather than basing its trademark legal expeditions on any real or potential customer confusion, Long Trail views trademark law as a vehicle for monopoly and lawsuit-driven income. Long Trail is certainly not alone in this view, unfortunately, but it does have a penchant for taking this sort of thing to ridiculous lengths.
Such as going after an apparel company for a simple t-shirt using an incredibly generic phrase, for instance. Long Trail has initiated a trademark lawsuit with a company called Chowdaheadz because the latter dared to make a shirt with the phrase “Take a hike” on it. As the filing explains, Long Trail has trademarked the phrase for its use and has sold apparel with the phrase on it.
8. Long Trail is, and it has been since the 1990’s, engaged in the business of selling apparel and other products under the trademark Take a Hike. Since late last century, Long Trail has continuously used the trademark Take a Hike in connection with its apparel, beer and other products.
9. Long Trail has expended and continues to expend a substantial amount of resources using, advancing, and promoting its trademark Take a Hike and the products and services with which it uses the trademark.
10. Long Trail is engaged in a variety of socially and environmentally conscious efforts in the Vermont community and has used its trademark Take a Hike in support of those efforts.
Apparel is indeed among the trademarks Long Trail has for the phrase. However, on so common a phrase as “Take a hike”, one imagines the bar for customer confusion is quite high. That is all the more so when the target for an infringement suit, in this case Chowdaheadz, uses the phrase in a way that calls nothing about Long Trail, or any other beer for that matter, to mind. Long Trail can and does attempt to drive the point that its use of the phrase on a number of mediums has created a public association with the brewery… but that’s ridiculous. Nobody traveling to the Chowdaheadz website and perusing the cornucopia of apparel it has there, and then coming across the following t-shirt, is going to somehow conclude that there is any association with Long Trail.
If you can find customer confusion in that t-shirt, you’ve got a brain malfunction. It’s also worth noting that there are roughly a zillion companies out there with “Take a hike” t-shirts, so why Chowdaheadz has been singled out for this legal action is puzzling. For its part, Chowdaheadz says it isn’t backing down. In its response to Long Trail’s initial threats, its legal team said:
While we appreciate that your client has used “TAKE A HIKE” on clothing and miscellaneous items for many years, we must point out that the phrase itself appears in every English-language dictionary in publication, and has been in widespread public use since at least as early as 1809. It is the epitome of the type of common, generic phrase that should not be monopolized by a single owner.
To illustrate this point, representative examples of clothing items for sale with the phrase “Take a Hike” on them are attached to this letter. You will note that Google retrieved listings for 642,000 such items in 0.46 seconds. You may also note that my client’s item appeared as the top search result, while, in contrast, your client did not appear at all.
It’s hard to see how a claim of either genericide or that the phrase was generic prior to Long Trail’s registration won’t be seen to have merit. In other words, Long Trail risks losing its trademark entirely by being the bully. I’m struggling to see how this was anything resembling an intelligent business decision by the brewery.