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BART, The Train Service, Goes After Brewery Over BART, The Beer

from the paging-bart-the-simpson dept

Maybe, like me, you thought that the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was only good for illegally shutting down cell phone services in its stations to quiet protests that never actually existed. Well, it turns out we were all wrong about that. BART is also good for insanely stupid trademark oppositions. Take, for instance, the recent dispute between the transit group and FiftyFifty Brewing Company, in which the former is attempting to keep the latter from gaining a trademark on its Barrel Aged Really Tasty brew.

According to FiftyFifty owner/CEO Andy Barr, the B.A.R.T. beer has been a regular offering for several years. It has been sold at the brewery and bottled in limited production for California distribution; he has legal label approval in the state. But FiftyFifty is now ready to expand its current production (~1200 barrels per year) and start shipping over state lines, so as Barr puts it, “it was a time for a trademark.” However, one party is not so keen on FiftyFifty’s trademark application for the B.A.R.T. label: Bay Area Rapid Transit, which obviously shares an acronym with the FiftyFifty beer in question. An opposition was filed.

“We were very surprised to get opposition from Bay Area Rapid Transit,” says Barr, pointing out that trains and beer are very different things, unlikely to cause consumer confusion. “Trademarks are for specific categories. You trademark it for beer, ale, porter. The implication is that we came up with that acronym in order to monetize on the fame of Bay Area Rapid Transit — which is not true,” Barr says.
No, it certainly isn't true. Barr further explains that the acronym was devised as an homage to a dead dog that, when alive, used to run around the brewery plant and entertain the workers within it. Now, I'm not saying that trying to co-opt the intention to name a product after a beloved pooch necessarily makes BART an entity very likely run by Satan himself, but it sure doesn't help to disavow the notion, does it?

More important is Barr's correct explanation of how trademarks work and within what parameters they operate. One of the key aspects of a valid trademark is the narrow industry to which it applies. BART, for instance, has a trademark on "BART" for the industries of transit, prints, and publication. I would have to be very drunk to confuse a train with a beer, I think. One would think that this entire opposition must be some kind of mistake, except the BART officials commenting on it think they're barking up a perfectly valid tree.
“Just as any agency or business does, BART routinely protects its name and registered trademarks,” notes Alicia Trost, Communications Department Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District. “Use of the BART name by unauthorized parties for commercial gain, whether or not they are in the rapid transit business, is a violation of trademark law, and something BART must protect itself against.”
Except, of course, that because we're talking about completely different industries, and because the source of the BART beer name had nothing to do with the BART transit group, none of the above is correct. No protection is necessary at all. Having a communications person publicly comment that the competitive industry doesn't factor into the validity of a trademark claim, which is absolutely false, seems like a huge misstep. Unfortunately, even though Barr knows he and FiftyFifty are in the right, he's facing the realities of our wonderful legal system.
“It blows me away that it would degrade and demean anyone else’s brand value,” he continues, expressing concern about the next steps. “We’re not a deep-pocketed organization … So, the question is how do we stand up for ourselves?”
Here's hoping David doesn't fall to Goliath.


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  • identicon
    Scote, 23 Mar 2015 @ 9:08pm

    "Among those flagship barrel-aged beers is one dubbed Barrel Aged Really Tasty, or as it is labeled on the bottle: B.A.R.T."

    Hmm... Not sure I'm buying the story. Sounds like a bacronym.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2015 @ 9:30pm

    Maybe they have a point....

    Maybe the Bay Area train stations gets a lot of confused people wandering into their stations looking to buy beers....

    Or lost people walking into pubs asking directions to the nearest Bay area station and being handed beers instead...

    I can see where the confusion will come in...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 24 Mar 2015 @ 2:01am

      Re: Maybe they have a point....

      I, for one, am never sure if I should board a train or a beer can someone threw on the floor of the station.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 10:48pm

    On the plus side, filing an opposition isn't the same as blocking a trademark. The PTO is well aware of the law, and the limitation of a trademark.

    Hopefully the right thing will happen without more being spent on lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ima Dork, 23 Mar 2015 @ 11:18pm

    BART huh?

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think that if Bay Area Rapid Transit sincerely wanted to protect their trademark, they'd have been all over that large elephant in the room, meaning, of course, Bart Simpson? Talk about offending the trademark of BART, geez. He's even on national TV doing it! Every week! And could there be any more serious a risk to the important name BART? Their indifference or reticence, or both, makes me wonder about their good faith in this case of beer, as it were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 10:45am

      Re: BART huh?

      You beat me to it!

      Maybe the beer company should ask Fox for some legal support since Bart Simpson may be BART's next target of a lawsuit. After all, there's TONS of merchandise with Bart Simpson's name on it.
      Maybe people have been thinking "Bart Simpson" is actually "BART Simpson", a stealth way to market the train service!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 5:56pm

      Re: BART huh?

      Chicago the band used to be called Chicago Transit Authority. Guess who sued them (or threatened to?) for trademark infringement, and made them change their name.

      This has been done before.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Woadan (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 11:54pm

    Does Bay Area Rapid Transit get their trains on time? If not, maybe they should focus on that first?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 12:04am

    It's a good thing they didn't call their beer "Metro" or they could have been sued by almost every major city in the country.

    As there are many municipalities across the country that refer to themselves as "Bay Area" -- I propose a name change to the less ambiguous Francisco Area Rapid Transit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    eol, 24 Mar 2015 @ 12:14am

    ...and what about BART, The Simpson?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 3:51am

    Next Murdoch will sue both the train service and the brewery. Because Simpsons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2015 @ 5:59pm

      Re:

      "Here ya go, Mr. Pewterschmidt. I made a video. Now nobody will want to smoke weed, because they'll think Hitler did."

      "Hate to tell you this, Peter, but FOX News called. They own the copyright to Hitler's likeness and have filed a cease-and-desist order. They don't want you defaming his character -- by making him out to be a pothead."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 4:56am

    'how do we stand up for ourselves?'

    that is the thing that the other BAT is hoping for and that the brewer will fold because it cant afford the litigation. perhaps a copyright/patent law firm will take the case on a 'no win, no fee' basis?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 6:11am

    After a few too many...

    Does this mean all trademarks look the same after a few too many trips on BART trains?

    Or you'd have to be a moron if you used a BART train when you were in a hurry?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 6:39am

    Another beer piece. Seems to be a focus.

    Awesome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord_Unseen (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 6:45am

    Definetly infrigning

    Obviously FiftyFifty is just trying to piggyback off BART. I know when I'm naming my beers, my first thought is to name them after a universally hated public transportation system.

    I think I'll name mine Greyhound...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 9:56am

      Re: Definetly infrigning

      "I think I'll name mine Greyhound..."

      Introducing, from the venerable Dark Helmet Brewing Company, our Suburban Express IPA!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 10:58am

      Re: Definetly infrigning

      "Obviously FiftyFifty is just trying to piggyback off BART"

      But that by itself doesn't make it a trademark infringement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lord_Unseen (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 2:41pm

        Re: Re: Definetly infrigning

        With enough creativity it does! Maybe BART is about to release BARTbrew! The beer you drink so you can forget your train is late. Again...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 7:15am

    I kind of see their point. It's not uncommon for people to go out for some beers in the evening and wake up in the next town in the morning. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 7:16am

    worse things than lawsuit....

    like being handcuffed
    thrown face down
    and shot in the back

    ....thought it was a taser.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 7:28am

    Too much time on their hands

    If I remember correctly, BART (the transit system), managed to stuff 250(?) some people into a control room that was designed to be run by 2 people. It is obvious that there are too many people sitting around trying to justify their existence. What better way than to be confused, er completely wrong about trademark law? Running the trains correctly (on time and without hassling their customers) is most certainly beneath them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wmkln (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 7:40am

    Coors Light Love Train

    I blame the Coors Light Love Train for propagating the idea that trains and beer are somehow related...assuming you think of Coors Light as beer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 8:05am

    not just lawyers chasing after ambulances now its every sleazy middle management employee after a fast settlement fee seems like

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 8:25am

    Wouldn't the acronym be S. F. B. A. R. T... Making it more of a slang acronym.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bssellin (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 9:26am

    Funding

    Go Fund Me or something similar? As a native (escaped) of San Francisco I'd take delight in helping with a donation. Perhaps enough people are tired of the bullies?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Max (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 10:55am

    ...Or, they could just switch to B.A.I.T. : Barrel Aged INCREDIBLY Tasty...!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 24 Mar 2015 @ 11:22am

    Just because the BART smells like piss and American beers are notorious world-wide as "piss-water" doesn't mean there is a credible confusion claim here guys.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 2:45pm

    Well, Bay Area Rapid Transit do have a point; there's many a time I've got the two B.A.R.T.s confused and ended up drinking a train.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pragmatic, 25 Mar 2015 @ 6:38am

    How long till they go after Bart, the Simpson?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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