Trademark Bullying Works: Mooselick Brewing Co. Becomes Granite Roots Brewing Out Of Fear Of Moosehead Breweries

from the the-moose-is-loose dept

I will occasionally get a common question when discussing stories about trademark bullies: why do these bullies actually do this? The easy answer is, of course, because it works. And it works on many levels. For example, the primary targets in actual lawsuits can be bullied out of using names and terms for their businesses or brands, so it works on that level. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg. Where being a trademark bully really works is when it makes lawsuits unnecessary, because other businesses and people are so fearful of the bully tactic.

To see that in practice, one need only look at the brewery formerly named Mooselick Brewing Co., which is now rebranding itself as Granite Roots Brewing without putting up a fight against, you guessed it, Moosehead Breweries.

Mooselick started selling beer in July 2015 and opened its tap room on Route 12 in Troy soon after with a name that honored their local heritage.

“We thought it was fun, interesting and it kind of paid homage to the moose,” Oliver Levick said Monday. “We thought it was one of the coolest of animals in New Hampshire, and that we could have fun and play with and have some moose themes.”

It wasn't long before the lawyers for Moosehead Breweries came calling. Levick mentions in the article that he was shocked that trademarks could be so broad as to cover everything using anything moose-related in the alcohol industry. It's a notion familiar to many, with the mind naturally recoiling at the idea that so broad a thing could be locked up by a singular player for a massive marketplace. The actual test for trademark, as you will know, is whether there is potential for confusion by consumers. As with many of the legal threats levied by Moosehead Breweries, that seems as though it would have been unlikely in this case.

Except we'll never see that question adjudicated in court, because Mooselick chose to take on the substantial costs for rebranding itself instead.

“We didn’t have the resources for a long, drawn-out legal battle,” Levick said. So the owners notified Moosehead of a transition plan and worked on creating a new name and image for the brewery.

Levick and his friends Iodice and LoDulce had all grown up in New Hampshire and wanted to pay tribute to their roots and the brewery’s commitment to the state.

The warning shot by Moosehead Breweries was all it needed to fire -- so entrenched is its reputation for trademark bullying and its willingness to engage in costly lawsuits. Startups understandably do the math on whether fighting the fight is more costly than simply rebranding. It's unfortunate that what was once a consumer-protection mechanism has devolved into this kind of sanctioned bullying.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Thad, 13 Apr 2017 @ 3:49pm

    Have they ever gone after Big Sky (makers of Moose Drool)? That seems like they might have a bit more of a fight on their hands.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2017 @ 10:58pm

    Thanks Moosehead for showing yourselves as true jackass trademark bullies, one less brand of beer that I'll never purchase again! I will however make a point of buying more from the much smaller Mooselick/Granite Roots Brewing that you chose to bully over the word "Moose".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 7:26am

      Re:

      "one less brand of beer that I'll never purchase again"

      So you *will* be buying it? ;)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 11:40am

        Re: Re:

        LOL, no and the next sentence showed what I meant, it was a typo cause I was so tired at the time and didn't notice it. "One more brand of beer that I'll never purchase again". Better?

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 14 Apr 2017 @ 6:32am

    Maybe they were better off. Mooselick Brewing Co.? When I read that it didn't exactly get the taste buds jumping.
    It's a shame too. The few times a year I do drink beer it's Moosehead.

    They need to come out with a beer:
    The beer formally known as Mooselick not to be confused with Moosehead.

    Then they can get Prince's estate in the mix and really have a party.

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

  • icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 14 Apr 2017 @ 7:08am

    I never did like Moosehead. The antlers hurt my thighs.

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 14 Apr 2017 @ 10:35am

    Moosehead - great beer, stupid lawyers!

    I love Moose Drool Ale. Unfortunately, this cruft may make me stop drinking it! Come on guys, but Moosehead and Mooselick are nothing alike!

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

  • identicon
    RD, 14 Apr 2017 @ 11:09am

    Until they are sued again...

    ...until they are sued again by Granite Memories, a gravestone maker concerned about confusion it might cause with their brand and market.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 11:51am

    The problem with these "bullies" is that they might not even want to do it. But the way trademark law works, they HAVE to. If they don't, they risk losing the trademark altogether.

    Ultimately, the problem lies in the law. Not the companies trying to protect themselves within it.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 14 Apr 2017 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      That's a common misconception, but no, aggressive affirmative enforcement is not necessary to protect trademarks. Genericization is extremely uncommon, and companies only need to protect their brands in instances that are likely to cause confusion among potential customers.

      And among potential customers, I see little likelihood of confusion here. People who drink craft beer pay attention to the name of the brewery they're buying from; Moosehead is a well-known, long-established Canadian brewery, whereas Mooselick is...apparently a small brewery in New Hampshire that specializes in fruit beers? No beer snob is going to get those two mixed up.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 2:33pm

    never liked moose...

    I now have another reason to keep supporting local craft beers. How do big beer factories like Moosedead succeed in making something that looks like beer, smells like beer but tastes like something out of a pub's lavatory (IMHO)? Support your local craft breweries... until they get bought out or get too big. (might just have to start making my own beer again)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 7:26pm

    There's a wee moose loose aboot the trademarked hoose of moose.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.