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?

Wrong.

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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Filed Under: agreement, breweries, trademark
Companies: fremont brewing, hopworks urban brewery


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:07pm

    Wow. With the election coming up, it's nice to get some good news for once instead of the constant reminder that both candidates are even worse than those who disliked 'em from the get-go thought.

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

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:57pm

    "It's almost like there can be a common sense approach to these types of trademark issues, one that doesn't require lawsuits."

    But only if very large quantities of alcohol are imbibed. Huh, maybe we should give that a try. If nothing else legal briefs would be much more entertaining.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 6:17pm

    The response to a trademark case is inversely proportional to the liklihood that consumers would actually be confused.

    As the chance of confusion decreases, the amount of lawyering incrases exponentially.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 6:31pm

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 5:05am

      Re: My experience with lawyers...

      Honestly, it's true in the medical industry as well. No interest in cures, only treatments. Longer you keep a patient on treatments, more money they can rake in.

      Same thing, different industry.

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

    • icon
      killthelawyers (profile), 4 Nov 2016 @ 6:19am

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 8:40pm

    Won't someone think of the lawyers?

    /s

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 9:38pm

      Re: Won't someone think of the lawyers?

      All without the cost of billable hours and court fees, too.

      You're putting those poor destitute lawyers out of business!

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

  • identicon
    athe, 3 Nov 2016 @ 9:36pm

    Interference with business model?

    Expect a lawsuit from a number of lawyers claiming interference with their business model - how dare these companies work through such a trademark "dispute" without involving those most able to provide a "settlement".

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 4 Nov 2016 @ 4:23am

    "Fremont Brewing says it was a friendly conversation and not an acrimonious kerfuffle"

    Flag on the play.

    Nobody that spends more than 8 hours per day in a brewery has ever used the words "acrimonious kerfuffle"

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 5:08am

      Re:

      I don't know. I could see some bespectacled brew wizard with a grey beard down to mid-chest using a phrase like that.

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

  • identicon
    djx, 4 Nov 2016 @ 8:21am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2016 @ 12:34pm

    No lawyers or asshole-ery? People acting like adults? Is this one those tricky April Fool's jokes that happen in November?

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 4 Nov 2016 @ 2:27pm

    Neat. One of the few times that the losers are the lawyers. Well done.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2016 @ 2:39am

    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".

    https://www.averybrewing.com/beers/collaboration-not-litigation-ale

    http://www.ratebeer.com/beer /avery-collaboration-not-litigation/68829/

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


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