Brewery Looks To Reform Trademark Practices After Its Lawyers Bully A Pub Over Its Name

from the the-blame-game dept

As is commonly said, mistakes happen and it's what we do about those mistakes that is important. Too often when the mistakes are concerning trademark bullying, there is nothing done to acknowledge or address that bullying. The bully will simply state the oft-repeated excuse that they must bully according to trademark law, which isn't remotely the case. And, because there is no acknowledgement that anything was done wrong, the bullying then continues.

Well, after a recent dust-up over trademarks between BrewDog, a self-styled "punk brewery," and a family-owned pub, it seems that the brewery is actually going all in on reforming how it approaches trademark issues, and even intellectual property more generally.

The brother-and-sister team behind the Wolf pub in Birmingham were forced to drop their original plan to name the establishment the Lone Wolf, after receiving a legal warning from BrewDog, which has launched a spirit bearing the same name. But BrewDog founder James Watt announced a change of heart on Monday after the Guardian’s report sparked a backlash that saw the firm, a vocal critic of large, faceless brewing firms, accused of acting like “just another multinational corporate machine”.

Watt had initially tweeted that the brewery's lawyers got "trigger happy" and that the bar could keep using the name. That was on March 27th, although that tweet appears, as best as I can tell, to have been deleted since. In its place were assurances to Watt's followers that all had ended well.


Along with that came a blog post from BrewDog explaining that it had to enforce its trademarks, but both promising to do so more leniently and stating that the company doesn't actually take intellectual property all that seriously.

In terms of the Lone Wolf Bar in Birmingham, we paid for and trademarked Lone Wolf in 2015. The Lone Wolf Bar in Birmingham opened in January of 2017. Our wider team and legal partners, acting entirely in our best interests informed them that we owned the name and they would have to stop using it. Just as we'd do if someone opened a bar called BrewDog.

However, hands up, we made a mistake here in how we acted. Almost all companies always look to enforce trademarks, whereas at BrewDog we should take the view to only enforce if something really detrimental to our business is happening. And here, I do not think that was the case. As soon as I found out, I reversed the decision and offered to cover all of the costs of the bar. I also invited them up to Ellon to make their own gin with us. This is a mistake that hurt a lot; but like all mistakes, it made us better. This will not happen again.

Going even further than that, the brewery has taken the somewhat extraordinary step to publicly release its brew recipes on its own website. Were a company to want to demonstrate more perfectly its commitment to not being an overbearing bully on matters of intellectual property, I'm not sure how they could do a better job of it than this. Working with the former target of the company's lawyers, publicly explaining what happened to its customers and everyone else, and releasing the recipes for its brews publicly for anyone to download: this is a commitment to being open and cool to customers and businesses.

Keep in mind that BrewDog could have simply shouted the mantra of having to protect its trademarks at everyone. We here wouldn't have bought that, because we know better, but that tactic must surely work to some degree given how often it is deployed. That BrewDog went another route is a good thing that should be celebrated.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 4:54pm

    You're the man now, BrewDog!

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 5:41pm

    Punk brewers with lawyers...

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

  • identicon
    Sid, 31 Mar 2017 @ 10:11pm

    Reputation

    Before you all raise a glass to Brewdog, the Guardian reports that they have previous form in trademark bullying.

    BrewDog threatened lawsuit against plan for bar with 'punk' in name

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/28/brewdog-lawsuit-bar-punk-brewer-pub

    This shouldn't come as any surprise: punk was never against making money. Malcolm McLaren was more capitalist than anarchist and Johnny Rotten advertises butter on TV.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2017 @ 4:16pm

      Re: Reputation

      Well then. Soleil Moon Fry is heading for trouble with her nearly 30 years previous use of the name. How dare she beat Johnny Come Lately to the punch.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2017 @ 3:00am

    The INSTANT a corporate bully does this, it should burn completely and utterly to nothing.

    Besides, taking bets that this 'brewery' is owned in secret by some massive beer corporation anyway.

    Same way 'innocent smoothies' is just a trading name for Coca Cola....etc

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

    • identicon
      Call me Al, 3 Apr 2017 @ 3:43am

      Re:

      It isn't owned by a large beer corporation (at least not yet). It sold a lot of its shares on a subscription basis and a lot of individual investors signed up. Partly that may have been because investors get a discount on orders!

      I looked into it but decided I didn't want to feel tied to any particular brewery.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2017 @ 7:00am

    Good to see they owned up to the mistake. But I wouldn't make too much of them releasing recipes. Breweries like Sierra Nevada have for years made their recipes available to anyone who wants them, and have done so without having to quiet a negative publicity shitstorm.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2017 @ 2:39am

      Re:

      Actually, they've been publishing their recipes for homebrewers since at least February last year, possibly earlier. I definitely downloaded the 2016 edition when it came out.

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

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 3 Apr 2017 @ 3:40am

    Let me guess

    They came up with the clever name Lone Wolf after watching Dr. Who?

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


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