AB/InBev, Jealous Protectors Of Trademark, Pretty Blatantly Committing Trademark Infringement

from the cheers! dept

Even if you haven’t read through our previous stories about giant beer brewer AB/InBev being very much into protecting its intellectual property to the extreme, you probably would have guessed that to be the case as a matter of instinct. With a large legal war chest and an equally large legal team, the company has had no problem with gobbling up questionable trademarks and then wielding them as a weapon against even the smallest of non-competitors. With such a strict view on its own IP rights and such an expansive view on trademark law, you would think that InBev would be super into making sure it’s own actions fell well within the bounds of trademark law.

You’d be wrong. Patagonia, the rather well known clothier, has sued InBev over how it’s used a trademark it received in 2012 for “Patagonia”. While you’re sure to be wondering how there could be customer confusion, as the apparel and beer markets are quite different, the details in this case definitely matter. We can start with what InBev did in the early days of holding the trademark, which mounts to essentially: not a thing.

AB InBev was granted a trademark to sell Patagonia beer in the United States in 2012, but the company sat on the name until 2018, when it started selling beer with the branding. Patagonia says their brand was created in the 1960’s and is registered in 90 countries.

So, one party has been using its trademark for decades while the other spent half a decade sitting on theirs. The rest of the details matter as well. For starters, Patagonia released its own brew, called Long Root, in 2016. InBev has also finally started using the Patagonia branding in part to tout a reputation for environmental work that InBev is now getting into. Patagonia, the company, has long been heavily involved in environmental initiatives as well. On top of that, InBev suddenly began setting up pop-up stores on ski hills and in ski villages, which is a prime marketplace for Patagonia. As part of those stores, InBev began selling Patagonia apparel, its rival company’s market for its own trademark. And, keeping all of those details in mind, there is the logo InBev chose to use.

Now, are those logos super-duper similar? Absolutely not. On the other hand, given all of the details and shady actions mentioned above by InBev, it’s not outlandish for Patagonia to suggest that the logos are close enough to be confusing when all other factors are taken into account.

Once again, as seems to always be the case, we find a huge proponent of intellectual property, one that has been happy to use lawyers to bully others, is likely committing trademark infringement itself. It’s enough to make one wonder if there are any true champions of IP among large companies, or only cynics willing to use it when it suits themselves.

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Companies: inbev, patagonia

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Comments on “AB/InBev, Jealous Protectors Of Trademark, Pretty Blatantly Committing Trademark Infringement”

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Oninoshiko (profile) says:

Trademarks are by product type

The clothing maker has never been using that trademark for beer; It only started making a beer 3 years ago (under a different trademark). How you’re proposing InBev knew in 2012 that a highly niche clothing manufacturer (I had never heard of them until this broke) was going to start making beer in 2016 is beyond me.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

The clothing company’s beer branding appears sufficiently different that there should be little confusion. "Long Root" !~ "Patagonia". It may even be not unfair to allow the big beer company to use the latter name in the realm of beer.

On the other hand, now that they are selling merch, there could be confusion. "Patagonia" == "Patagonia", so using the branding to designate the origin of clothing is confusing.

Assuming always that more money gives rise to legal victory, we can predict the result.

SirWired (profile) says:

I get it; Big Company, Bad, Small Company, Okay.

I happen to agree that this is a pretty blatant trademark problem.

But a while back you wrote about a very similar trade-dress complaint. There, it was Nestle going after a company that made a "FitCrunch" bar, using an identical red/white/blue color scheme (seriously, it looks like they used the same Pantone numbers), the word "Crunch" in gigantic red letters, and it was a competing candy bar, and your conclusion was that the trade dress wasn’t, and I quote, "remotely identical".

So when it’s a hippy-dippy clothing company vs. a huge beer conglomerate, it’s a legit claim, but when it’s an even clearer case and it’s a huge food conglomerate vs. a small producer, it’s The Mighty Boot of Corporate Overreach.

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