UK, American Breweries Show How The Craft Beer Industry Should Be Handling Trademark Issues

from the how-it's-done dept

Any brief review of the posts we've done here on the craft beer industry's recent heel-turn on all things trademark would give you the impression that there are few good guys any longer and all potential trademark disputes become disputes dialed to eleven in every case. The industry, which has exploded in last twenty years or so, initially developed a tradition for cooperation and congeniality. This was largely to do with the craft industry being heavy on very small startup breweries coupled with the tradition for creative names of brews and artistically inspired label designs. The end result was breweries that quite often swept aside what would be trademark disputes in other industries in favor of camaraderie.

That tradition has unfortunately largely disappeared over the past decade. In its place is what's become the steady corporatization of the craft beer industry, which has dragged expensive legal teams into the ranks. Those legal teams too often treat trademark concerns differently than the old guard did, opting for protectionism and aggression rather than cooperation.

But the old ways are not entirely gone, as demonstrated by UK and American brewery teams that chose instead to work with rather than against one another.

The Loose Cannon Brewery of Abingdon, UK has recently established trademark agreement with Heavy Seas Beer of Baltimore, Maryland as Heavy Seas moves towards selling their beers in the UK and Europe.

Heavy Seas’ flagship brand, Loose Cannon IPA, was potentially going to create confusion with the Loose Cannon Brewery. Happily, the Trademark ownership and use issue has now been fully resolved with Loose Cannon taking over the ownership of the UK trade mark and subsequently granting a license for use to Heavy Seas Beer in the UK. Heavy Seas has granted a mirror license to the Loose Cannon Brewery for the use of the Trademark in the EU.

It's sad how unique this sort of thing has become. Two breweries, between which there was a sensible concern about confusion over trademark rights and branding names, opted to cross-license to one another so that each entity's products could be sold in each market. In addition to demonstrating a congenial approach, it also strikes me that a move like this demonstrates the confidence each brewery has in its own products. This kind of permissive attitude towards what is ostensibly going to be some level of competition only happens when each side is confident that its own fans' love of each beer will keep any real confusion at bay.

Not satisfied with just being cool about all of this, however, the two breweries went a step further to solidify the positive relationship by collaborating on brews as well.

To mark what has been a successful outcome, the two brewers will produce a collaboration brew in 2019 at the Loose Cannon Brewery in Abingdon to introduce Heavy Seas beers to the UK market.

But this needs to be more than a mere feel-good story. It should serve as a template for other craft breweries as to how to interact and resolve potential trademark issues between peers. The craft industry is simply better for outcomes such as these.

And that should be good for everyone.

Filed Under: cooperation, craft beer, eu, licensing, loose cannon, trademark, uk, us
Companies: heavy seas beer, loose cannon brewery


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2019 @ 12:24pm

    "work with rather than against one another"

    What are these people ... commies or something?
    Everyone knows that the capitalistic free market does not like cooperation, you are supposed to act like five year olds, scream and whine till you get what you want.


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