Confluence Brewing Sues Confluence On 3rd, An Apartment Complex, For Trademark Infringement

from the i'd-like-to-rent-a-beer-please? dept

It's been a minute since we've had to cover some trademark nonsense in the beer industry. In fact, several recent stories have actually represented what might be mistaken for a clapback on aggressive trademark protectionism in the alcohol space. But, like all great things, it just couldn't last. The specific tomfoolery that has brought reality crashing down on us once again comes out of Iowa, where Confluence Brewing has filed a trademark suit against Confluence On 3rd, which is an apartment complex that does not serve or make beer.

Confluence Brewing Company on Friday filed a trademark lawsuit and motion for an injunction in Polk County District Court seeking to stop Confluence on 3rd apartments from using the name "Confluence."

John Martin, president and co-founder of Confluence Brewing, said representatives of the company have tried to have discussions with Roers Companies, the Long Lake, Minnesota-based developer of Confluence on 3rd and several other Des Moines-area properties, but felt that their complaints were "falling on deaf ears."

Those complaints appear to have centered around both companies using the word "confluence" and the potential public confusion that could cause. Which is really dumb. Because the brewery sells beer and the apartment complex rents apartments. A greater deviation in marketplaces I dare say could not be dreamed. And, yet, Confluence Brewing appears to have taken its opponent's refusal to negotiate on these invalid complaints as some sort of personal affront. After some back and forth about whether Confluence On 3rd might add the word "apartments" to the brand, it seems communication ceased. Jeff Koch, a principal at the parent company for Confluence On 3rd, had been a part of these conversations, but communication with him too was rebuffed.

Which isn't to say that Koch won't explain to the media just how ridiculous this all is.

The two companies have distinct names and operate in different business sectors, Koch said in his email to the Register. He said Confluence on 3rd has not experienced any confusion in the marketplace.

"Confluence on 3rd was named solely on the historic relevance the city was founded at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers," Koch said in his email to the Register. "It is unique to Des Moines history and should be celebrated, not solely owned and dictated by one brewing company."

This is essentially the localization of the aspect of trademark law that prevents a single company from locking up language globally. The whole point of trademark law is to prevent customer confusion within a given market, so that one brewer can't pass themselves off as another by having similar names and branding. That just isn't a concern here, given the disparity in the markets in which these two companies play. So, what got us to the point of having Confluence Brewing alleging true concern about public confusion?

Beer coasters, largely.

In April 2017, court documents show, Confluence Brewing called Roers Companies asking them to cease and desist their use of blue drink coasters promoting Confluence on 3rd at Des Moines bars.

"I just think the bar coasters just seem a little bit blatant," Kerndt said. "I mean, they were being distributed at establishments that serve my clients’ beer."

Emails between Kerndt and Koch show Confluence on 3rd had distributed all their coasters by the time of the April call and have not ordered any additional coasters since then.

Which is entirely besides the point. Just because a company puts out the tchotchke of its choice doesn't suddenly put it in a competitive situation with anyone who makes those tchotchkes. If that were the case, the tchotchke market as a whole wouldn't... you know... exist. The only other type of confusion mentioned in the article for Confluence Brewing is that apparently people's Google map skills occasionally send them to the wrong Confluence company for the wrong item. Still, that isn't the type of confusion trademark law is supposed to prevent and it's easily remedied by directing the customer to another address.

I will say that Confluence Brewing comes off as very earnest on the matter, so perhaps the folks there simply aren't aware of the intricacies of trademark law. Its legal team, on the other hand, certainly should be.


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  • identicon
    Christenson, 12 Feb 2018 @ 8:06pm

    Confluence of...idiots

    Confluence of foolish brewers and greedy lawyers?
    Confluence of foolish brewere and rule 11 damages? (let's hope!)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2018 @ 8:11pm

    out_of_the_blue's heroes, ladies and gentlemen, glorious corporate purveyors of intellectual property law.

    You'd think that if IP law was so predominant they wouldn't constantly be staffed by litigious idiots...

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 12 Feb 2018 @ 9:58pm

    Confluence on 3rd? I want to know, who's on first?

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

  • icon
    Ron Currier (profile), 12 Feb 2018 @ 10:10pm

    Will software be next?

    So after this will they go after Confluence - Team Collaboration Software? After all, programmers drink beer.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 9:05am

      Re: Will software be next?

      Hey, "Ron Currier": any hope of your explaining the SIX YEAR GAP after your first comment in 2010? Inquiring minds want to inquire.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 13 Feb 2018 @ 9:53am

        Inquiring minds need imagination

        So, "Ron Currier" was only moved to post on techdirt once every six years...

        Maybe it's not even THE SAME person...maybe Ron is a loyalist of THE REGISTER,(theregister.co.uk) or slashdot, and doesn't come here often, so he is a casual user, in which case welcome back...and maybe he feels that Confluence the software is just obscure enough but in his area of familiarity to finally need his comment.

        It's a reasonably insightful and funny comment, why do you need to beat up someone for being a little different?

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

      • icon
        An Onymous Coward (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re: Will software be next?

        Not really, no. Inquiring minds don't give a rat's ass. Now piss off.

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:59pm

        Re: Re: Will software be next?

        It is a sign of intelligence to avoid saying anything except when you have something to say.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 12:48am

    I use Confluence all the time... in the JIRA setup I administer. Are they going to go after everybody who uses this particular generic word?

    https://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence

    Yet again, if you're going to be so paranoid and protective over the name you choose for the your company, don't choose a word that's in the dictionary and has nothing directly to do with your product. You will have a bad time.

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 4:21am

    To be fair....

    When you have enough beers, you can confuse anything. I mean, do you really want a drunk...I mean a loyal customer, stumbling into an apartment building demanding a beer and settling for a Sam Adams winter larger that was handed to them by a resident? They might loose business!

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 4:41am

      Re: To be fair....

      Larger? Loose? Have you been drinking again?

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:20am

        Re: Re: To be fair....

        It could be that autocorrect is doing the drinking and not him. I sometime fight with it as well, and my browser spellcheck often tell me that correct spellings are incorrect, but that is likely because its database is too small.

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

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 13 Feb 2018 @ 5:16am

    Stupid

    I hope the beer company (and others) lose their trademark protection. One common word as a trademark shouldn't be allowed.

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

    • icon
      NeghVar (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:48am

      Re: Stupid

      Common word in different industry, no. But common word in same or similar industry. I believe that could be valid. Apple never sued Apple Orthodontics for TM infringement because they are a totally different product and industry. A classic TM troll is Monster Cable.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 6:27am

    Merging rivers everywhere say WUT?

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:37am

    When I think beer, I don't go to Confluence on 3rd apartment complex confused that they serve beer in their lobby. This is not trademark infringement.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:10am

    Suit Triangle

    So, when is Atlassian going to sue Confluence Brewing over trademark infringement of their Confluence collaberation software?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 9:04am

    HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

    Yes, "Ron Currier", commented ONCE in 2010, SIX YEAR GAP then 4 times in 2016, ONCE in 2017, and again here!

    So FIVE "accounts" having SIX YEAR GAPS. I now think that the fun for Techdirt is that the fanboys so resolutely IGNORE this inexplicable pattern.

    Congratulations, Geigner. You are truly The Zombie Maker, I mean Master.


    For anyone new who doesn't believe how ODD this site is, here again the prior four:

    dickeyrat: 3 comments TOTAL in TEN years! Aug 17th, 2017, Jun 23rd, 2011, and Jul 10th, 2010!!! https://www.techdirt.com/user/dickeyrat

    https://www.techdirt.com/user/andrewlduane On May 1st, 2017

    https://www.techdirt.com/user/slowgreenturtle Dec 15th, 2016

    Advocate (changed to Keisar Betancourt and back!) 5 Sep 2013 from 18 Aug 2007 https://www.techdirt.com/comments.php?start=60&u=advocate

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

    • icon
      An Onymous Coward (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 11:01am

      Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

      Just shut up. You're not a special snowflake.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 11:56am

      Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

      I just made 20 zombie accounts, with the names taken from random words used in your posts. They will not be used again for six years, or until the next time you become extremely annoying. Be prepared!

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 12:41am

        Re: Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

        "six years, or until the next time you become extremely annoying."

        One of those time scales seems significantly shorter than the other, for some reason...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 6:49pm

      Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

      Another trademark fuck-up, and this is the best you could come up with, of course. Any time you fail to defend your heroes in IP is a good time.

      Nice going, you Budweiser fellatio artist.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 12:43am

      Re: HA! Same day as I pointed out the prior four ANOTHER SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE POPS UP! -- And who better attracts them than Geigner?

      I wonder, do you obsessively investigate other sites? If not, you actually don't know if this is a common trend among long-running sites or if it's unique to Techdirt. Your own premise falls apart on a faulty assumption straight off the bat.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 10:08am

    Koblenz, Germany

    Here's a tip for Confluence Brewery:
    The last time I went to Germany, I visited a city called Koblenz. Since the name means "confluence" in German and since it's located on the confluence of 2 rivers, I naturally assumed the city was either named after Confluence Brewery or had some kind of endorsement deal.
    Would you please go ahead and file a trademark dispute against the city for daring to use the word "confluence"? Using a different language doesn't mean they can get around trademark infringement.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 8:42am

      Re: Koblenz, Germany

      Using a different language doesn't mean they can get around trademark infringement.

      Just ask the site Que Pasa (sued by What's Up).

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

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 12:19pm

    This inspires a much needed grouping term

    There are terms for groups of animals, such as a colony of weasels, a mischief of rats, etc. This is well known.

    I propose that a number of meritless and ill-considered lawsuits be termed a confluence, for example "The judge received a confluence of lawsuits from various breweries, and after review placed them in the public restroom."

    Not that anyone would need my permission to use this term, but feel free to use as needed (which may be often).

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

  • identicon
    michael, 13 Feb 2018 @ 2:25pm

    It's "BESIDE the point"

    It seems like every time Timothy Geigner writes an article he uses "besides the point" -- which is INCORRECT -- rather than "beside the point."

    It shouldn't be hard with a modicum of thought to see which is obviously wrong and which is obviously correct.

    I realize Tim doesn't read the comments (or he would have seen the other ten times I've corrected him on this), but I refuse to give up the good fight.

    Use your fool head when writing, or get a damn editor.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:09pm

    Too Drunk

    If they have any customer confusion, then the customer has already located too many of their products.

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


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