Comrade Brewing Gets Its 'Superpower' Trademark After Nonsense Opposition From The Wonderful Company

from the trademarkman dept

Between the explosion in the craft beer industry and our pernicious ownership culture, the beer industry has enough of a trademark problem to regularly appear in our posts. While many of the disputes in the industry are generated by once-small breweries that have grown up and shed their permissive attitudes towards branding, just as many trademark disputes result from entities outside the industry attempting to pretend that the alcohol industries, if not craft beer specifically, are not markets all to their own. This lack of nuance occasionally pervades even within the USPTO, unfortunately.

But sometimes the TTAB gets it right. Such is the case with Comrade Brewing, makers of its 'Superpower IPA' brew, for which the TTAB refused the opposition of The Wonderful Company, which makes fruit juices. At issue was the slogan for POM Wonderful juices: "Antioxidant Superpower."

In past cases, the board has held that wine and spirits are closely related to beer in the minds of consumers, but it said The Wonderful Co. had failed to show that a soft drink such as fruit juice had the same kind of connection. “Simply put, opposer has not submitted sufficient evidence that consumers are accustomed to encountering these goods under the same mark,” Judge Peter W. Cataldo wrote for a three-judge panel.

“Particularly in light of the differences between the goods but also because the two marks had key differences in appearance,” Cataldo wrote, “the board sided with Comrade Brewing.”

This opposition was a loser on several grounds. The markets being different for each product is certainly the easiest to conceptualize. Customers looking for fruit juices are unlikely to wander into a store's craft beer section and find themselves irrevocably confused. As someone who has seen what pomegranate juice looks like, and as someone who has consumed an unholy quantity of IPAs, this opposition would be hilarious if it weren't so frustrating in the first place. For a small brewer to have to entertain this kind of clear bullying from a much larger company at the trademark office is plainly absurd.

And, when you take into account the difference in the actual marks, it becomes all the more so. A beer named "Superpower IPA" and a slogan that says "Antioxidant Superpower" are simply unlikely to cause anything resembling confusion in the market. Everything else about the trade dress is also, of course, wildly different. David Lin, owner of Comrade Brewing, appears to be taking this all in stride.

“Operating this brewery has thrown us a lot of curveballs,” explains Lin. “If I’m being completely honest the potential confusion between antioxidant juice and craft beer was more surprising to me than the day someone crashed their truck through our front door. We’re going to laugh this one off over a couple of Superpowers.”

It's certainly an endearing attitude to have, but it should be obvious that the wasting of a non-competitor's time with this sort of thing ought to be worthy of punishment.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Aug 2018 @ 6:29pm

    Superpower ≠ Monster

    Someone, one day, will make a craft beer using Pomegranate juice, and then they should be very careful about how they go about naming and marketing it. It is obvious that POM Wonderful thinks they have a lock...on something... and one should expect trouble from them if they 'encroach' on their POMerrific product marks. Ahem.

    Antioxidant beer? Maybe there is something there! Now could it be an IPA or maybe a stout, or another type of ale?

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 17 Aug 2018 @ 12:50am

    This kind of thing always amuses me, when the people who are suing clearly didn't come up with their trademark in the first place. Whether they were referencing Cold War countries or comic book heroes with the name, others did their work first. It would be fun if Disney or WB turned around and sued them back for taking their word.

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

  • icon
    XcOM987 (profile), 17 Aug 2018 @ 2:02am

    We’re going to laugh this one off over a couple of Superpowers.

    But which superpower? I am confused?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2018 @ 7:13am

    I guess having "Wonderful" in the name of a company is the equivalent of having "Democratic Republic" in the name of a country.

    (Warning: TvTropes link. Do not click if you want to be productive today.)

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

  • identicon
    colorado anonymous ipa snob, 17 Aug 2018 @ 11:25am


    I'll have to head down to Comrade for a IPA this weekend....

    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
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories


Email This

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