from the trollololol dept
It's a damned dirty shame that if you search Techdirt stories for "beer" -- all you come away with are stories about silly trademark fights that ought never have happened. Of all the possible tangential topics having to do with beer, one of life's great pleasures, spinning into trademark discussions is the worst of them. Yet these stories keep happening. And, in our wonderful comments section, oft times someone will suggest a barely-changed replacement name to get around the trademark dispute that also clearly thumbs its nose at the accuser. Very few breweries choose to go that route, unfortunately.
O'so Brewing Co., however, decided to do exactly that, bowing to the power of the trademark dispute by renaming its "Night Train Porter" beer to "Night Rain Porter" because trolling isn't just for individuals, companies can do it, too.
"We’re going to run through the rest of the packaging for Night Train, so there’s a possibility you’ll see both on the shelves," said O'so brewmaster Ray Wagner of the porter's past and present names. "We didn’t change the packaging that much. If you’re not paying attention, you might not notice."Yes, after crowdsourcing name suggestions from its fans, such as "C&D Porter" and "Injunction Porter", O'so decided to omit a single letter in the disputed name of the beer and carry on with things. It's fun to see a company on the receiving end of a dumb trademark C&D engage in a little snark while technically complying but, as I've been saying for several years now, the craft brewing industry is running into entirely too many of these situations. An explosion of growth in an industry shouldn't be bogged down by questionable trademark disputes. That isn't a recipe for fostering more and better business. Instead, these nettlesome disputes act as barriers. O'so itself, after this dispute arose, decided to proactively contact other businesses with slightly similar but distinct names to make sure there would be no lawsuits or letters from them as well. All that does is take the business away from what it does best: making beer. Sadly, this is quickly becoming an anticipated annoyance.
The Plover brewery announced in March that it would need to rename Night Train due to a legal challenge from another alcoholic beverage maker. Though it was never confirmed, speculation was that the challenge came from E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, California, which makes a wine called "Night Train Express."
"It’s just another day in the beer world. This stuff’s happening all over the country," Wagner said. "We did get a little bit scared and start calling competitors that had similar names to beat the lawyers to it, to say, 'We aren’t going to come after you if you aren't going to come after us, can we all get along and get a beer later on?'”And you see how the spiral finds its next leg downward. Once bitten by a C&D letter, the brewery is now going on a trademarking splurge just to avoid having to go through any of this again. Trademarks that will, of course, carry with them their own requirement to protect the marks, no matter how congenial the brewery would otherwise wish to be. In other words, this is only going to get worse.
The small brewery is looking forward to putting the whole ordeal behind them.
"I just hope it doesn’t happen again," Wagner said. "We’ve started actively trademarking names near and dear to us so we don’t have to go through this again. It’s a large cost for a brewery our size. It’s unfortunate we have to start fighting legal battles that haven’t started yet."