Comrade Brewing Gets Its 'Superpower' Trademark After Nonsense Opposition From The Wonderful Company
from the trademarkman dept
Between the explosion in the craft beer industry and our pernicious ownership culture, the beer industry has enough of a trademark problem to regularly appear in our posts. While many of the disputes in the industry are generated by once-small breweries that have grown up and shed their permissive attitudes towards branding, just as many trademark disputes result from entities outside the industry attempting to pretend that the alcohol industries, if not craft beer specifically, are not markets all to their own. This lack of nuance occasionally pervades even within the USPTO, unfortunately.
But sometimes the TTAB gets it right. Such is the case with Comrade Brewing, makers of its ‘Superpower IPA’ brew, for which the TTAB refused the opposition of The Wonderful Company, which makes fruit juices. At issue was the slogan for POM Wonderful juices: “Antioxidant Superpower.”
In past cases, the board has held that wine and spirits are closely related to beer in the minds of consumers, but it said The Wonderful Co. had failed to show that a soft drink such as fruit juice had the same kind of connection. “Simply put, opposer has not submitted sufficient evidence that consumers are accustomed to encountering these goods under the same mark,” Judge Peter W. Cataldo wrote for a three-judge panel.
“Particularly in light of the differences between the goods but also because the two marks had key differences in appearance,” Cataldo wrote, “the board sided with Comrade Brewing.”
This opposition was a loser on several grounds. The markets being different for each product is certainly the easiest to conceptualize. Customers looking for fruit juices are unlikely to wander into a store’s craft beer section and find themselves irrevocably confused. As someone who has seen what pomegranate juice looks like, and as someone who has consumed an unholy quantity of IPAs, this opposition would be hilarious if it weren’t so frustrating in the first place. For a small brewer to have to entertain this kind of clear bullying from a much larger company at the trademark office is plainly absurd.
And, when you take into account the difference in the actual marks, it becomes all the more so. A beer named “Superpower IPA” and a slogan that says “Antioxidant Superpower” are simply unlikely to cause anything resembling confusion in the market. Everything else about the trade dress is also, of course, wildly different. David Lin, owner of Comrade Brewing, appears to be taking this all in stride.
“Operating this brewery has thrown us a lot of curveballs,” explains Lin. “If I’m being completely honest the potential confusion between antioxidant juice and craft beer was more surprising to me than the day someone crashed their truck through our front door. We’re going to laugh this one off over a couple of Superpowers.”
It’s certainly an endearing attitude to have, but it should be obvious that the wasting of a non-competitor’s time with this sort of thing ought to be worthy of punishment.