About Face: Left Hand Brewing Abandons Attempt To Trademark 'Nitro', Invites Other Breweries To Their Nitro Fest Instead
from the quite-a-turn-around dept
It's rare for us here at Techdirt to be able to offer a follow up story on a company attempting to trademark a common term with one in which that same company does a complete one-eighty and behaves in an awesome way. Yet, that's exactly what I get to do for all of you today. You may recall that Left Hand Brewing Co. had attempted to trademark the term "Nitro" for one of its brews, leading to a backlash from many other breweries. The problem is that the usage of nitrogen in alcohol is not especially unique, even if Left Hand was the first brewery to bottle its beverages that way, and the term is ultimately descriptive of a process, not a brand identifier. So, how'd that whole thing work out?
Last summer, Left Hand quietly dropped its efforts to trademark both the word "Nitro" as it relates to beer and the more specific "Nitro Milk Stout" in order to focus on building the brand across the country and on rebuilding goodwill among customers and competitors.At the very least, it would appear that Left Hand decided to listen to the public's reaction to the trademark attempt and back off. The claim about not wanting to be a negative in the industry might be easily written off as the positive spin of a company spokesperson, except that Left Hand is backing it up with some pretty cool actions.
"It was never meant to piss anybody off, but to protect a ton of money and time that we had spent on it," says Left Hand spokesman Chris Lennert of both the process of packaging a nitrogenated beer and the efforts to trademark the name. "We were trying to protect ourselves from having one of the big guys come out with a package like that. But we said if we are going to get all this flak for it, then we don't want to do it. So we came back and shifted our focus. We didn't want to be negative."
This weekend Left Hand will celebrate that effort and nitrogenated beers in general (not to mention the brewery's 21st birthday) with an unprecedented festival: Nitro Fest is the first beer gathering to exclusively feature beers poured using nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide gas. Nitro beers pour smooth and creamy, with cascading bubbles; it looks similar to what many people are used to seeing when they order a Guinness on draft. There will be 21 well-known or highly thought-of breweries in attendance, some of them with beers that have never been nitrogenated before. They include Colorado stars like Oskar Blues, Odell, Breckenridge, Elevation, Ska and Boulder Beer, along with big out-of-state names like Founders, Cigar City, Dogfish Head, Firestone Walker, Green Flash, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Victory, Elysian and Deschutes.That's right, the company not only decided to throw a festival around its nitrogenated beers, but it invited a bunch of its competition to partake as well. If this is nothing more than a show of good faith to Left Hand's brewery peers that it isn't trying to lock down the use of nitrogen in drinks, it's a damned good one. The end result should be even more positive for Left Hand: creating a buzz over nitrogenated beer, a market it ought to be particularly good in. Add to that building up a bunch of good will among us drinkers for creating a beer festival and inviting a bunch of breweries and this is a nice ending to a once-irritating story.