Barley Mowat 

Trademark Storm’s A-Brewing

with 6 comments

Here’s something I’ve been pondering recently: what with all the questions around brewery trademarks in the past year, it looks like we might be on a collision course for another round. Two new breweries are opening in BC this year, and both are rather curiously appropriating the names of existing beers produced by other breweries.

The two breweries (and their similarly named beers) are:

1. Beachcomber Brewing, in Gibsons, similar to Vancouver Island Beachcomber Blonde Ale
2. Deep Cove Brewing, in North Vancouver, similar to Bridge Brewing’s Deep Cove IPA (brewed just down the street)

In both cases the new breweries have a bit of an uphill battle, as the established guys have done their homework and registered their trademarks here and here.

To recap, I am absolutely for registering trademarks on brewery and beer names. It’s a little bit of bother that can save you a lot of headache down the line. That we might be seeing a fight between two craft breweries is unfortunate, but it just as easily could have been MolsonCoors coming to town with bright ideas on changing the beer game.


Pictured: Bright idea on changing the beer game. Seriously, it’s shit like this that makes you guys so easy to hate.

What do I think? For starters, this isn’t like that other famous beer trademark case (Cascadia) where the term was no longer used by the TM holder and, what’s more, had come to be widely used in the brewing industry to denote a generic style of beer instead of a specific brand. Both these new terms are very specific to the TM-holding breweries, and are not commonly used in the brewing industry at all.

So here’s my (completely ignorant, lay-person) thoughts on each:

Beachcomber. There are lots of old trademarks for this term in the database, including an abandoned application for a beer name by a now defunct brewery that I only just heard of this instant (Gibson’s Landing Brewing). Curiously, there aren’t any TV related TMs, but maybe the CBC wanted us to use the term for ourselves.

So what do I think of this situation? Does Mark Brand (of Save On Meats, Diamond, Boneta & Portside fame) have a case? I think not. Beachcomber is a broadly produced brand that VIB has used effectively in their product line for almost a year now. Maybe VIB might hand over the name to a start-up but I don’t see why they should have to give up all that investment in artwork and advertising just because a new guy didn’t do his homework–homework that someone like Mark Brand should KNOW to do.


Aside: How awesome would
Relic Brewing be?

Deep Cove. Okay, but what about Deep Cove? In general, I don’t like the too-common practice of using placenames for breweries or beers, since they’re not unique to you or yours. Bridge Brewing isn’t even in Deep Cove, so their claim might be a bit looser should a new brewery open up actually in said town. Luckily for them, this isn’t what happened. Deep Cove Brewing has reportedly secured some space on Dollarton Highway, just down the street from Bridge Brewing, if anything a bit further from Deep Cove than Bridge. If a new guy actually started up in Deep Cove then yeah, I’d have liked to see Bridge hand over the name in a gesture of goodwill but in this case, keep it.

I know what you’re muttering under your breath right now: “Why can’t they just live and let live?” Right? Why can’t both breweries use the name in the friendly spirit of craft brewing? Problem is, trademarks don’t work that way. Should VIB reach a “gentlemen’s agreement” with Beachcomber to “let this one slide” another brewery could use the existence of that agreement to (validly) argue that the TM is defunct and that, therefore, THEY should be able to use the term, and with the TM thrown aside this new guy doesn’t have to play nice and respect VIB’s branding.

Sure, we like to villainize the big guys in these cases (and not without cause), but if you were a small startup why bother building up a brand when you can just use this well-known one VIB has kindly made available free of charge? Sure would save having to run ads of your own. Basically, by allowing anyone else to use the term VIB would be voluntarily giving the TM up and they have no incentive to do so, and lots of incentive to not let that happen.

So what we’re left with is the reality that these two pairs of breweries will need to sit down and have a frank talk sometime soon (assuming they haven’t already) because the trademarks absolutely force them to do so. I just hope it all ends well, and without involving suits.

Psst: Seriously, though: RELIC BREWING! You know you want to!

Written by chuck

March 12th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

6 Responses to 'Trademark Storm’s A-Brewing'

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  1. I’ve been wondering what InBev will have to say to 33 Acres. I suspect that they will feel some infringement upon Rolling Rock.

    Mike

    12 Mar 13 at 17:18

  2. David

    12 Mar 13 at 17:53

  3. Once again great reporting. I hope this all works out in the wash. Could VIB and Bridge Brewing possibly licence the term for a nominal cost ala steamworks plan to hold onto the TM?

    mike

    13 Mar 13 at 09:11

  4. @Mike – Hard to say re: rolling rock. A brief US PTO search doesn’t show them having the term trademarked (numerous others do though). I don’t think they’d have a strong case, but the cost of arguing it would be too much for Josh I think.

    @David – Dammit.

    @uh… Other Mike — SW is letting the term go free for style descriptors, which is all anyone wanted. Their $1 licensing for actually naming a beer ‘Cascadia’ doesn’t hold water, and I doubt they’ll ever implement it since it would be identical to letting the TM go, only with more paperwork. Ian@Hopblog does a good summary of why that is so here: http://hoplogblog.blogspot.ca/2012/11/trade-marks-cascadia-and-beer.html

    chuck

    13 Mar 13 at 09:58

  5. Thanks for the info Chuck!

    mike

    13 Mar 13 at 13:03

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