AB/InBev, Jealous Protectors Of Trademark, Pretty Blatantly Committing Trademark Infringement

from the cheers! dept

Even if you haven't read through our previous stories about giant beer brewer AB/InBev being very much into protecting its intellectual property to the extreme, you probably would have guessed that to be the case as a matter of instinct. With a large legal war chest and an equally large legal team, the company has had no problem with gobbling up questionable trademarks and then wielding them as a weapon against even the smallest of non-competitors. With such a strict view on its own IP rights and such an expansive view on trademark law, you would think that InBev would be super into making sure it's own actions fell well within the bounds of trademark law.

You'd be wrong. Patagonia, the rather well known clothier, has sued InBev over how it's used a trademark it received in 2012 for "Patagonia". While you're sure to be wondering how there could be customer confusion, as the apparel and beer markets are quite different, the details in this case definitely matter. We can start with what InBev did in the early days of holding the trademark, which mounts to essentially: not a thing.

AB InBev was granted a trademark to sell Patagonia beer in the United States in 2012, but the company sat on the name until 2018, when it started selling beer with the branding. Patagonia says their brand was created in the 1960's and is registered in 90 countries.

So, one party has been using its trademark for decades while the other spent half a decade sitting on theirs. The rest of the details matter as well. For starters, Patagonia released its own brew, called Long Root, in 2016. InBev has also finally started using the Patagonia branding in part to tout a reputation for environmental work that InBev is now getting into. Patagonia, the company, has long been heavily involved in environmental initiatives as well. On top of that, InBev suddenly began setting up pop-up stores on ski hills and in ski villages, which is a prime marketplace for Patagonia. As part of those stores, InBev began selling Patagonia apparel, its rival company's market for its own trademark. And, keeping all of those details in mind, there is the logo InBev chose to use.


Now, are those logos super-duper similar? Absolutely not. On the other hand, given all of the details and shady actions mentioned above by InBev, it's not outlandish for Patagonia to suggest that the logos are close enough to be confusing when all other factors are taken into account.

Once again, as seems to always be the case, we find a huge proponent of intellectual property, one that has been happy to use lawyers to bully others, is likely committing trademark infringement itself. It's enough to make one wonder if there are any true champions of IP among large companies, or only cynics willing to use it when it suits themselves.

Filed Under: beer, clothing, trademark
Companies: inbev, patagonia


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2019 @ 4:33pm

    "bohemian pilsner". a little redundant, maybe? patagonia bohemian pilsner? lolwtf.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Apr 2019 @ 4:55pm

      Re:

      Czech pilsner is better, as in Pilsner Urquell.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2019 @ 4:06am

        Re: Re:

        Not sure if you mean that Urquell is better than the two knock-offs going at it here, or if you mean that Czech pilsner is better than Bohemian Pilsner in general.

        FWIW, the city of Pilsen is in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. /pedantic

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Apr 2019 @ 7:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, Pilsner Urquell has, at times, been rated one of the five best beers in the world. I would concur with that.

          That there was a Bohemian region of the Czech republic was beyond my ken, thanks for informing me.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2019 @ 4:55pm

    I hope the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of Anheuser-Busch's executive and legal teams. Also, I hope they owe a bajillion dollars to Patagonia for this.

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

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 12 Apr 2019 @ 5:01pm

    Visual similarities

    Considering that companies do change their branding and graphics on a whim these days, it would be easy to assume that one of the companies has decided to try alternative branding for a while. So, yes, I think a novice (or inebriate) could be confused/tricked by the graphics.

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

  • icon
    Oninoshiko (profile), 12 Apr 2019 @ 6:30pm

    Trademarks are by product type

    The clothing maker has never been using that trademark for beer; It only started making a beer 3 years ago (under a different trademark). How you're proposing InBev knew in 2012 that a highly niche clothing manufacturer (I had never heard of them until this broke) was going to start making beer in 2016 is beyond me.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2019 @ 11:20am

      Re: Trademarks are by product type

      They couldn't. BUT, when they started selling clothing outside ski shops selling Patagonia clothing, they knew exactly what they were doing.

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

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:30am

      Re: Trademarks are by product type

      Sure, they probably didn't know Patagonia would enter their market. They probably just registered ALL THE TRADEMARKS and then sat on them, not making use, so if some competitor decided they wanted to enter the market InBev had a weapon to deploy. That's NOT the purpose of trademark.

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

  • identicon
    bobob, 12 Apr 2019 @ 7:27pm

    Hoisted on their own brewtard. With any luck, patagonia will trounce them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2019 @ 8:16pm

    I'm definitely confused by this branding, so...Yeah.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 12 Apr 2019 @ 10:13pm

    Techdirt will certainly be declared a terrorist organization. Governments hate being exposed.

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

  • identicon
    Aerinai, 13 Apr 2019 @ 6:10am

    Definitely infringement

    There is no way inbev can make a good faith argument about this. I'm against trademark bullying, especially cross-realm but this is ridiculous. I was confused when I saw this

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

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 13 Apr 2019 @ 6:38am

    The clothing company's beer branding appears sufficiently different that there should be little confusion. "Long Root" !~ "Patagonia". It may even be not unfair to allow the big beer company to use the latter name in the realm of beer.

    On the other hand, now that they are selling merch, there could be confusion. "Patagonia" == "Patagonia", so using the branding to designate the origin of clothing is confusing.

    Assuming always that more money gives rise to legal victory, we can predict the result.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2019 @ 5:33pm

    Is the author of this article a lawyer?

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:53am

    The people of Patagonia (the region) should sue them both for making their mountains et al look bad.

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

  • identicon
    SirWired, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:27am

    I get it; Big Company, Bad, Small Company, Okay.

    I happen to agree that this is a pretty blatant trademark problem.

    But a while back you wrote about a very similar trade-dress complaint. There, it was Nestle going after a company that made a "FitCrunch" bar, using an identical red/white/blue color scheme (seriously, it looks like they used the same Pantone numbers), the word "Crunch" in gigantic red letters, and it was a competing candy bar, and your conclusion was that the trade dress wasn't, and I quote, "remotely identical".

    So when it's a hippy-dippy clothing company vs. a huge beer conglomerate, it's a legit claim, but when it's an even clearer case and it's a huge food conglomerate vs. a small producer, it's The Mighty Boot of Corporate Overreach.

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


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