from the mission-accomplished? dept
Snark is a wholly underrated tool for dealing with trademark bullies. While we’ve seen it employed in the past, the victim of trademark bullying turning the tables on the bully with humor is something that still is far too rare. One brewery recently showed exactly how this is done.
Voodoo Brewery has been selling its H2P IPA since 2014, with a can label that nods towards the University of Pittsburgh, where the brother of the brewery’s founder went to school. It was only in late 2017 that the school sent out a cease and desist letter, claiming trademark infringement.
Voodoo started selling H2P in its original can in 2014. The beer grew in popularity and was twice featured on Pitt’s campus after its release. Then, in October, Pitt called Voodoo and asked it to cease and desist distributing the “H2P” IPAs with the school’s trademarked image, font and phrase. Voodoo released the newly designed cans a few weeks ago and they sold out in a couple of days.
Voodoo’s chief executive office, Matteo Rachocki, said that he and others at Voodoo were surprised at Pitt’s cease and desist request, since the beer was on the market for three years prior.
“We had been invited on campus to pour the beer twice, so we had just kind of assumed that we had their blessing,” Rachocki said.
That obviously wouldn’t hold up as any kind of a legal argument, although one wonders what exactly explains the delay in Pitt’s enforcement. The beer was not only known to the school, but had been displayed on campus, I assume specifically because of the tie in with the school. That sounds like it should have been an awesome example of a school understanding that the education and alcohol sectors are not common marketplaces, and working to support an alumnus. That possibility is now gone, with the school taking the strong arm route.
Well, it doesn’t appear that Voodoo will be deprived of the last laugh, even as it complies with Pitt’s C&D.
Rachocki met with Pitt officials Jan. 22 to work out a deal that would allow Voodoo to use Pitt trademarks. Rachocki said the new design for the can labels was on the conference room table when Pitt officials came to meet at the brewery. He said he presented the cans to make University officials aware of the brewery’s plan for the IPA if they couldn’t secure rights to Pitt’s trademarks. After an initially encouraging meeting in January, Rachocki said Pitt stopped responding to his emails.
The new cans still feature Pitt’s trademark blue and gold color scheme, but that’s where any allusions to Pitt end. The cans now read “NON-TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT ALMA MATER IPA” with no other Pitt-related images.
The name refers both to the bullying Pitt did, as well as the fact that alumni work at Voodoo Brewery. Frankly, that’s not a good look for Pitt in the public, but it’s a wonderful example of how far a little snark can go in responding to trademark bullying.