Canadian Brewery Changes Name Of Brew Due To Peanut Butter Company Bully That Doesn't Ship In Canada

from the drunk-or-nuts? dept

We've been talking about the trademark crisis facing the craft brewing industry for some time. To recap, an industry explosion coupled with the habit of that industry to come up with creative and referential names for its products has collided with trademark attacks coming both from within and outside of the industry. The industry, which once had a quite permissive and fraternal approach to intellectual property, has since become corporatized. New entrants to the market, therefore, face challenges with how to name their craft beers without facing legal threats.

This is where it's worth repeating that trademark law is chiefly designed to keep the public from being confused as to the source of affiliations of a good or service. In other words, the brand name of a product shouldn't fool the public into thinking it came from somewhere it did not. That reality makes it quite frustrating to see Off Track Brewing agree to change the name of one of its signature brews due to threats issued by a peanut butter brand.

When the guys behind Off Track Brewing came up with a stout beer, using real peanut butter as the key ingredient, they needed a name.

"We were brainstorming one day, and Jon just said, 'You know what, Damn Skippy, it's just jumping out to me, it'd be a really good name,'" said Allan MacKay of Off Track Brewing in Bedford, N.S.

You already know what happened. Damn Skippy jumped in popularity, leading some to comment on the brew on social media. There, whatever legal team the Skippy peanut butter people had contracted with took notice and fired off a cease and desist notice to Off Track. It never got to the litigation level, as Off Track agreed to change the name of the brew. Normally, this is where our post would point out that the beer-buying public is certainly not going to confuse a creatively named peanut butter stout beer as having anything to do with Skippy brands, not to mention that the two products are in wildly different market arenas. All of which ought to have been sufficient to push back on the C&D and even for Off Track to have its day in court, if it wished.

But even if you don't agree with my assessment above, exactly how much potential confusion in the buying public could there be when that same Canadian public can't even buy Skippy peanut butter?

Even though Skippy peanut butter was discontinued in Canada two years ago -- months before the brewery opened -- the owners decided to give in after consulting their lawyer.

"We're gonna switch it up, so it's not a big loss," said MacKay. "The beer stays the same, which is good."

Part of the requirement to hold a valid trademark is that it be in use in the marketplace for commercial purposes. The Skippy people appear to very much be not using it in Canadian commerce. How, therefore, could there be any potential for customer confusion? And why, for the love of all that is peanut-buttery, did Skippy undertake this bullying to begin with?

Filed Under: beer, brewery, canada, damn skippy, peanut butter, skippy
Companies: hormel, off track brewing


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  • identicon
    Dave, 28 Aug 2019 @ 7:41pm

    The problem here is, even though the "Skippy" peanut butter trademark is not being used in Canada right now, it may very well be once again at some point in the future.

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 7:48pm

      Re:

      That isn't an actual problem.

      That is "Abandoned, but we maybe might want it again so no one else can use it."

      That's the thing with Imaginary Property - You can't steal it, but you can abandon it and Skippy isn't in use. For peanut butter OR beer!

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

  • icon
    norahc (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 7:49pm

    Damn Skippy was forced to change their name in a jiffy,

    Despite the trademark claims being iffy,

    Even though both are based on peanut butter,

    To confuse the two you'd have to be a real nutter.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2019 @ 8:10pm

    The new rule for organizations threatened and forced to change names of their businesses or products should be to mock the threatening party.

    I'd rename the beer Trademark Troll Peanut Butter Stout.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 28 Aug 2019 @ 9:31pm

    New name

    Fuck Skippy.

    They're nuts anyways.

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

  • icon
    Bill Poser (profile), 28 Aug 2019 @ 10:38pm

    trademarks are sector specific

    Trademarks are sector specific - if you decide to call your tractors "John Deere", you've got a problem, but if you decide to call your yoga studio "John Deere", there shouldn't be. I'm pretty sure that beer and peanut butter are not in the same sectors, so this should not be an issue.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 9:52am

      Re: trademarks are sector specific

      if you decide to call your tractors "John Deere", you've got a problem, but if you decide to call your yoga studio "John Deere", there shouldn't be.

      Even if it's a tractor-themed themed yoga studio, like this was a peanut-butter beer?

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

  • icon
    jonr (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 12:32am

    Not as weak as some similar stories...

    I'm going to give Skippy half a point here, because unlike some of the other trademark stories that have been covered here, there is actually peanut butter used in the beer, and someone could theoretically think, given the name, that the peanut butter used is Skippy -- similar to how Oreo has licensed their trademark for candy bars and pudding. However, the "not currently sold in Canada" aspect does still make this a trademark bully situation. Plus, the graphic design, if you can call it that (a simple black-on-white block lettered label) in no way resembles the peanut butter (yes, I watched the linked video to find that out -- along with the new name, "Illuminutti").

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 9:50am

      Re: Not as weak as some similar stories...

      However, the "not currently sold in Canada" aspect does still make this a trademark bully situation.

      I'm in Canada, and I'm surprised to hear it's not sold in Canada. Apparently it was only discontinued two years ago. I certainly wouldn't conclude that just because I haven't seen it in stores recently, the brewery couldn't have gotten some. In general, it's extremely common for manufacturers to use foreign products in their supply chains, and customers don't know where their products are made (i.e., for all I know this could have been an American beer made with American peanut butter).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 3:30am

    But Skippy is a kankaroo!

    Just pointing out that I have never heard of Skippy peanut butter, but Skippy is a well known kangaroo from an eponymous TV show. I am really confused now.

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

  • icon
    Beefcake (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 4:30am

    Damn, Skippy.

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

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 5:27am

    Suggestion: Change to "Damn, Jiffy".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2019 @ 7:51pm

      Re:

      Except that the peanut butter you're referencing has always been called "Jif". "Jiffy" is the result of the Mandela effect.

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 29 Aug 2019 @ 6:45am

    In related news, the Illuminati has now sent a C&D to the brewery to stop them from using the name "Illuminutti".

    When contacted for comment, the Illuminati representative told us that selling craft beer and secretly controlling governments both venture into t-shirt sales and they were concerned that consumers would think they were endorsing the beer or brewery.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 29 Aug 2019 @ 7:05am

    Duh

    And why, for the love of all that is peanut-buttery, did Skippy undertake this bullying to begin with?

    Billable hours.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 29 Aug 2019 @ 5:51pm

    How many of those social media comments on the beer asked if it has some Skippy peanut butter in it? (Right or wrong, that would surely set off Skippy's lawyers.)

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

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 30 Aug 2019 @ 12:15am

    Fuck Skippy.

    Caution, contains soy.

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

  • icon
    crade (profile), 30 Aug 2019 @ 7:10am

    Darn, I misread the title as

    Canadian Brewery Changes Name Of Brew To "Peanut Butter Company Bully That Doesn't Ship In Canada"

    It doesn't say what they changed it to.. maybe that's still an option?

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 31 Aug 2019 @ 4:50am

    One other thing...

    The usage of the phrase "damn skippy" in England, Canada, and Australia--among other places--predates the existence of Skippy peanut butter by a good number of years. One might view its use by a US maker of peanut butter as cultural appropriation, esp. in other countries.

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


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