Confluence Brewing Sues Confluence On 3rd, An Apartment Complex, For Trademark Infringement

from the i'd-like-to-rent-a-beer-please? dept

It’s been a minute since we’ve had to cover some trademark nonsense in the beer industry. In fact, several recent stories have actually represented what might be mistaken for a clapback on aggressive trademark protectionism in the alcohol space. But, like all great things, it just couldn’t last. The specific tomfoolery that has brought reality crashing down on us once again comes out of Iowa, where Confluence Brewing has filed a trademark suit against Confluence On 3rd, which is an apartment complex that does not serve or make beer.

Confluence Brewing Company on Friday filed a trademark lawsuit and motion for an injunction in Polk County District Court seeking to stop Confluence on 3rd apartments from using the name “Confluence.”

John Martin, president and co-founder of Confluence Brewing, said representatives of the company have tried to have discussions with Roers Companies, the Long Lake, Minnesota-based developer of Confluence on 3rd and several other Des Moines-area properties, but felt that their complaints were “falling on deaf ears.”

Those complaints appear to have centered around both companies using the word “confluence” and the potential public confusion that could cause. Which is really dumb. Because the brewery sells beer and the apartment complex rents apartments. A greater deviation in marketplaces I dare say could not be dreamed. And, yet, Confluence Brewing appears to have taken its opponent’s refusal to negotiate on these invalid complaints as some sort of personal affront. After some back and forth about whether Confluence On 3rd might add the word “apartments” to the brand, it seems communication ceased. Jeff Koch, a principal at the parent company for Confluence On 3rd, had been a part of these conversations, but communication with him too was rebuffed.

Which isn’t to say that Koch won’t explain to the media just how ridiculous this all is.

The two companies have distinct names and operate in different business sectors, Koch said in his email to the Register. He said Confluence on 3rd has not experienced any confusion in the marketplace.

“Confluence on 3rd was named solely on the historic relevance the city was founded at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers,” Koch said in his email to the Register. “It is unique to Des Moines history and should be celebrated, not solely owned and dictated by one brewing company.”

This is essentially the localization of the aspect of trademark law that prevents a single company from locking up language globally. The whole point of trademark law is to prevent customer confusion within a given market, so that one brewer can’t pass themselves off as another by having similar names and branding. That just isn’t a concern here, given the disparity in the markets in which these two companies play. So, what got us to the point of having Confluence Brewing alleging true concern about public confusion?

Beer coasters, largely.

In April 2017, court documents show, Confluence Brewing called Roers Companies asking them to cease and desist their use of blue drink coasters promoting Confluence on 3rd at Des Moines bars.

“I just think the bar coasters just seem a little bit blatant,” Kerndt said. “I mean, they were being distributed at establishments that serve my clients’ beer.”

Emails between Kerndt and Koch show Confluence on 3rd had distributed all their coasters by the time of the April call and have not ordered any additional coasters since then.

Which is entirely besides the point. Just because a company puts out the tchotchke of its choice doesn’t suddenly put it in a competitive situation with anyone who makes those tchotchkes. If that were the case, the tchotchke market as a whole wouldn’t… you know… exist. The only other type of confusion mentioned in the article for Confluence Brewing is that apparently people’s Google map skills occasionally send them to the wrong Confluence company for the wrong item. Still, that isn’t the type of confusion trademark law is supposed to prevent and it’s easily remedied by directing the customer to another address.

I will say that Confluence Brewing comes off as very earnest on the matter, so perhaps the folks there simply aren’t aware of the intricacies of trademark law. Its legal team, on the other hand, certainly should be.

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Companies: confluence brewing, confluence on 3rd

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Comments on “Confluence Brewing Sues Confluence On 3rd, An Apartment Complex, For Trademark Infringement”

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Christenson says:

Re: Re: Inquiring minds need imagination

So, “Ron Currier” was only moved to post on techdirt once every six years…

Maybe it’s not even THE SAME person…maybe Ron is a loyalist of THE REGISTER,( or slashdot, and doesn’t come here often, so he is a casual user, in which case welcome back…and maybe he feels that Confluence the software is just obscure enough but in his area of familiarity to finally need his comment.

It’s a reasonably insightful and funny comment, why do you need to beat up someone for being a little different?

PaulT (profile) says:

I use Confluence all the time… in the JIRA setup I administer. Are they going to go after everybody who uses this particular generic word?

Yet again, if you’re going to be so paranoid and protective over the name you choose for the your company, don’t choose a word that’s in the dictionary and has nothing directly to do with your product. You will have a bad time.

Anonymous Coward says:

HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

Yes, "Ron Currier", commented ONCE in 2010, SIX YEAR GAP then 4 times in 2016, ONCE in 2017, and again here!

So FIVE "accounts" having SIX YEAR GAPS. I now think that the fun for Techdirt is that the fanboys so resolutely IGNORE this inexplicable pattern.

Congratulations, Geigner. You are truly The Zombie Maker, I mean Master.

For anyone new who doesn’t believe how ODD this site is, here again the prior four:

dickeyrat: 3 comments TOTAL in TEN years! Aug 17th, 2017, Jun 23rd, 2011, and Jul 10th, 2010!!! On May 1st, 2017 Dec 15th, 2016

Advocate (changed to Keisar Betancourt and back!) 5 Sep 2013 from 18 Aug 2007

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

I just made 20 zombie accounts, with the names taken from random words used in your posts. They will not be used again for six years, or until the next time you become extremely annoying. Be prepared!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

I wonder, do you obsessively investigate other sites? If not, you actually don’t know if this is a common trend among long-running sites or if it’s unique to Techdirt. Your own premise falls apart on a faulty assumption straight off the bat.

John85851 (profile) says:

Koblenz, Germany

Here’s a tip for Confluence Brewery:
The last time I went to Germany, I visited a city called Koblenz. Since the name means “confluence” in German and since it’s located on the confluence of 2 rivers, I naturally assumed the city was either named after Confluence Brewery or had some kind of endorsement deal.
Would you please go ahead and file a trademark dispute against the city for daring to use the word “confluence”? Using a different language doesn’t mean they can get around trademark infringement.

Oblate (profile) says:

This inspires a much needed grouping term

There are terms for groups of animals, such as a colony of weasels, a mischief of rats, etc. This is well known.

I propose that a number of meritless and ill-considered lawsuits be termed a confluence, for example “The judge received a confluence of lawsuits from various breweries, and after review placed them in the public restroom.”

Not that anyone would need my permission to use this term, but feel free to use as needed (which may be often).

michael (profile) says:

It's "BESIDE the point"

It seems like every time Timothy Geigner writes an article he uses “besides the point” — which is INCORRECT — rather than “beside the point.”

It shouldn’t be hard with a modicum of thought to see which is obviously wrong and which is obviously correct.

I realize Tim doesn’t read the comments (or he would have seen the other ten times I’ve corrected him on this), but I refuse to give up the good fight.

Use your fool head when writing, or get a damn editor.

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