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Strange Brewing Company faces a trademark threat from a Massachusetts homebrew shop

Discussion in 'Beer News' started by Chin17, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. Chin17

    Chin17 Zealot (95) Colorado Aug 1, 2009

  2. This isn't the first thread to put this sort of thing up front and personal. Patent & trademark law has its own set of rules. What seems ridiculous to us is commonplace in this field. Distance from each other doesn't necessarily make a big difference since either company has the capability to expand all over the country.
     
  3. I think that Bob and Doug McKenzie along with Elsinore Brewery and the band Cream should sue both parties.
     
  4. FarmerTed

    FarmerTed Savant (310) Colorado May 31, 2011

    I gotta say, whenever I hear the ads on local sports radio for Strange Brewing in downtown Denver, I get confused as hell and wonder why the eff a homebrew shop in Marlboro, Mass would want to advertise in Colorado. I mean, shit, we've got a ton of homebrew shops here already. Why the fuck do I want to drive all the way to Massachusetts to get some yeast?
     
  5. Oooh! A lawyer letter. (Oh no!)

    Good luck with those damages over time spent sorting out invoices.
     
  6. If a small but devastating, life-taking grain dust explosion took place inside that homebrew shop while their lawyer was present, I would be instantly ISO: Strange Brewing Co. to celebrate. Not to take sides or anything.

    I especially enjoyed the citation of "Collaboration not Litigation" which seemed entirely lost on the homebrew shop.
     
    Kuemmelbrau, SatlyMalty and beertunes like this.
  7. I live in Boston and went to the newly opened brewery in Denver last year. I know of the homebrew in Marlboro too. Didn't think of anything since both companies are thousands of miles apart, don't distribute to either state, and offer different products for sales. Many breweries share the same names for particular styles, but only a few have gone to a law suit. Old Rasputin and Old Disputin always come to mind.
     
  8. cavedave

    cavedave Champion (940) New York Mar 12, 2009

    Oh wonderful, now I have to be confused again. I worry every time I get Vermonster that I am buying an energy fruit punch, and now I have to worry if I buy a bottle of Strange Brewing I will be getting a kit for making homebrew.

    I know all trademark infringements need to be pursued no matter how ridiculous yadda yadda but geepers lawyers suck.
     
  9. I've been involved in a fair amount of trademark issues and it looks like the home brew shop has the legal upper hand. Trademarks are enforced nationally and his was clearly established when the brewery decided to use the name in a very similar area. Whether he wants to be a d bag and pursue it over a business thousands of miles away is another question. It seems paranoid to me.
     
    psuKinger likes this.
  10. To me, it sounds like the homebrew joint is just trying to cash in on the success/attention that Strange Brewing Co. has been getting.

    The guy is a douche in my books

    (and i love how he is using a Denver lawyer)
     
    drumrboy22 likes this.
  11. Its really an unfortunate situation and both sides have valid points. These trademarks are very expensive so I can understand wanting to protect your investment. It serves as a good lesson though when coming up with your name you have to make more of an effort to realize the name has been taken. We don't know the whole story what if the homebrew shop was created as a preliminary step to get involved in the beer business and then expand into a brew pub or brewery. I don't think the owner of the shop is trying to profit to much because of the success of the brewery but to prevent search results burying homebrew supply links further down.
     
  12. NoCoDavid

    NoCoDavid Initiate (0) Colorado Apr 4, 2008

    I know of two homebrew shops along the Front Range that have attached breweries - both breweries have different names (Equinox/Hops and Berries and Dry Dock/Brew Hut). I'm curious if trademarking a name reserves it for other uses.

    If either of these places had names that were unique and not from a Bob and Doug movie I might be able to empathize with the MA shop. If you Google "Strange Brew" you get a lot of businesses (aside from movie stuff), including a bar and a brew club. As it is, this homebrew shop owner and his lawyer are acting like complete hypocrites. Those letters from them are nasty too. They could just say "no", they don't have to say that they're "offended" by the offer to keep it out of court.

    I hope Strange Brewing Co. keeps its name. If this does go to court and they have to pay their own attorney, I hope they have a litigation fundraiser - I'm sure their supporters would band together and chip in. There's already a Facebook page to "Keep Strange Brewing Strange."
     
  13. They should brew a Litigation Ale, and over boil the hops to symbolize how bitter the other people are. And instead of putting the money in the register, just put it in a can labelled "Lawyer funds." I would contribute to that.
     
  14. jl28r1

    jl28r1 Savant (490) Texas Jan 10, 2011

    If the homebrew shop started to get emails from homebrewers from across the country telling them to back off or I will never shop from your website etc, they might get the picture. Hmmm... anyone know how to contact a bunch of homebrewers? :cool:
     
    robinsmv, SatlyMalty and cavedave like this.
  15. ewright

    ewright Savant (440) North Carolina Oct 25, 2007

    Amazing...North Carolina had Carolina Brewing Co, Carolina Brewery and Carolina Beer Co (erstwhile Cottonwood brewers) at the same time, still have the former two. And yet, none of this panty-wadding, trademark infringing, lawyer sic'ing BS. To tell you the truth, there are times I *still* get confused which is which, and I have lived in this area longer than either of them have been open. Does it really matter? Not so much...
     
    JCam9981 and cavedave like this.
  16. spoony

    spoony Advocate (525) Colorado Aug 1, 2012

    This demand is the trademark equivalent of patent trolling, IMO.

    From what I have read, the shop in MA has a decent legal basis to bring a lawsuit, i.e., registration of the mark, which provides national protection. However, the ethics of making the shop's demand are questionable, and I sense a shakedown, not a legitimate concern over the shop's reputation and trademark.

    PS-Not all lawyers are scumbags...the fact that the shop in MA is using a lawyer from CO (and from a reputable firm in Denver) suggests that this demand was not the lawyer's idea.
     
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  17. They have to defend their name, Strange Brew is a good shop with good people
     
  18. JrGtr

    JrGtr Savant (365) Massachusetts Apr 13, 2006

    Actually, it's more the other way around. Strange Brew HBS has been in business over 15 years at this point. They have had a web presence and online ordering for at least 10 of them.
    I'm not saying that Strange Brewing (CO) is trying to cash in on the success - more likely they're just another pair of Deadheads that wanted to open a brewery. (and yes, it is a cool name for a beer - related company.

    Could this have been handled better? Sure, but Strange BRew (MA) does have a trademark and does need to defend it. Likely they hadn't heard of Strange Brewing (CO) until just recently - GABF medals or not.
    I read down the list and see breweries I've never heard of before. I read this years and last years and didn;t even notice Strange Brewing (CO) on the list of winners.
    As far as lawyers? Maybe his local one contacted someone there to send the letter, or Strange Brew (MA) contacted a CO one for the issue. We have no way of knowing.

    Oh, yeah, and apparantly Strange Brewing (CO) has admitted they knew about Strange Brew (MA) when they were opening the brewery, and disregarded it.
     
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  19. Agree with the second part, as I used to go there a fair bit when I was (rather unsuccessfully) attempting to homebrew. Seemed like a chill, friendly guy.

    But disagree that they "have to" defend their name. Sure, both businesses are beer-related, but as has been noted, they're on opposite sides of the country, and I find it hard to believe the names would cause confusion.

    Also as noted, there would seem to be a bunch of better ways to handle this. Collaboration not Litigation being mentioned, and that's a great idea.

    The lawsuit threat seems overkill. And I know it's likely the lawyer writing the letters, but to claim to be "offended" by the offer to collaborate? Wow.
     
  20. The homebrewing shop in MA owns the federal trademark, the brewery in CO does not. The brewery has to change their name. Sounds pretty open and shut to me. Next time you start a business make sure you secure the federal trademark first.
     
  21. emannths

    emannths Savant (400) Massachusetts Sep 21, 2007

    IANAL, but trademark law in the US generally requires that you police your trademark so that it is not considered abandoned.
     

  22. That's precisely it. Does the homebrew shop really think this is causing them any harm? No, of course not. But what happens when Strange Brewing takes off and starts to distribute in MA? Then the homebrew shop is in trouble if they didn't make any efforts to protect their trademark.
     
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  23. JRod1969

    JRod1969 Advocate (590) New York Nov 23, 2010

    I thought trademarks were restricted to specific markets. Are beer supply sellers the same market as commercial beer producers/brewers? I don't think they are. Having said that, I just felt compelled to post in this thread due to my avatar.

    PS I hope I don't get a cease and desist letter on my avatar now.:)
     
  24. nanobrew

    nanobrew Initiate (0) California Dec 31, 2008

    I usually fall on the side of trying to protect the trademark, after all these are real businesses involved. And though I still agree with the hombrew shop that they had a right to send the letters, I find their responses to very asshole behavior. They don't have to start making kits with the brewery, it was just a suggestion...an offer of goodwill. Plus, the real thing they wanted was a conversation with the hombrew shop owners to try and work it out. Instead they send an angry response saying

    "I would earnestly request that you reconsider your position on this matter and advise me by the close of business on Friday, November 9, 2012, that you will agree to transition to a new name as soon as possible."

    They never gave a position, they wanted to talk. They threw out one suggestion. Sure if it comes down to the brewery being forced to change their name, fine, but at least pick up the phone and talk like adults.

    With that said, it also sounds like the brewery did not help themselves (according to the hombrewer's lawyer's letter).

    "instead of attempting to resolve this matter amicably you chose to even further promote the infringing name of your business in a front section feature article in the October 12, 2012 Denver Post."

    Sounds like a mess, time to let the high priced lawyers resolve it now.
     
  25. dauss

    dauss Advocate (575) Colorado Aug 9, 2003

    I know that initially Tim Myers of Strange Brewing was incredibly upset when Left Hand Brewing rebranded their Jackman's Pale Ale to Stranger Pale Ale and had contemplated legal action against Left Hand Brewing.

    That being said, I don't think this is something worth litigating. I hope that Strange Brewing and Strange Brew are able to come to a mutual agreement.
     
    Centennial likes this.
  26. That was one of the sillier parts of the letter in my opinion. I'm assuming this is the story he's referring to (I'm guessing there wasn't multiple articles about Strange in the paper that day)

    http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_21753614/tapping-into-local-scene

    That was published during GABF week. If the Post wrote an article about Strange and a couple other small local breweries during Denver Beer Week, that is not a case of Strange "promoting" themselves. When the reporter came around asking questions should they have refused to cooperate because they'd recently received that letter from Strange Brew's attorney?

    While that is only one sentence from a long letter, making such a ridiculous accusation is very revealing to me about the good faith of the attorney and/or the homebrew shop.
     
  27. nanobrew

    nanobrew Initiate (0) California Dec 31, 2008

    thanks for linking the article. I didn't see anything mentioned about the hombrew store or the C&D. What did the homebrew store expect, the brewery to shut up shop the day they received the letter? They should have picked up the phone and talked like adults
     
  28. Jason

    Jason Founder (1,330) Massachusetts Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    Just my two cents ...

    If I was Strange Brewing I would ignore all requests, their 1st mistake was acknowlegding they even received the letter. The letter should have been throw in the circular file cabinet especially if it was not a certified letter. The 2nd mistake they made was not filing for the name when they opened, they would have either beer approved or flagged and then perhaps picked a different name. 3rd mistake ... contacting them on their own and not from their own lawyer.

    The home brew shop filed for "Strange Brew" not "Strange Brewing Company".

    Other "Strange" in beer:

    http://www.strangebrewtavern.net/index.html
    http://strangebrewtavern.co/
    http://www.strangebrew.ca/

    Many coffee shops using the name as well ...

    "Strange Brew" is limited to the sole filing here, note the disclaimer it is for "Brew" not "Brewing":

    Word Mark STRANGE BREW
    Goods and Services IC 032. US 045 046 048. G & S: Beer. FIRST USE: 19970601. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970601
    IC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: Retail stores featuring beer and wine making supplies. FIRST USE: 19970601. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970601

    Standard Characters Claimed
    Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
    Serial Number 78907474
    Filing Date June 13, 2006
    Current Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Published for Opposition January 23, 2007
    Registration Number 3227867
    Registration Date April 10, 2007
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Powers, Brian INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES 41 Boston Post Rd East Marlborough MASSACHUSETTS 01752
    Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE "BREW" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN
    Type of Mark TRADEMARK. SERVICE MARK
    Register PRINCIPAL
    Live/Dead Indicator
    LIVE



     
    Onenote81 and JRod1969 like this.
  29. Jason

    Jason Founder (1,330) Massachusetts Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    And the dozens of coffee shops using the name? I see at least 2-3 bars using the name as well.
     
    Oxymoron likes this.
  30. Coffee and danish wouldn't violate either of the categories Strange Brew the homebrew store trademarked. G & S: Beer. G & S: Retail stores featuring beer and wine making supplies.

    If the bars are marketing a "Strange Brew Tavern Ale" or selling homebrew supplies then they would be. If they're just using it as their name it wouldn't appear to violate either
     
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  31. cpinto6

    cpinto6 Savant (365) Georgia Feb 25, 2010

    IMO the owner of the homebrew shop is an idiot. He might sell homebrewing supplies but he clearly doesn't know his clientele or the craft beer market in general. If I was him I would've emailed/phones strange brewing and talked with them before even getting a lawyer. I wouldn't trust a lawyer as far as I could throw him with resolving a dispute amicably. They're lawyers for a reason, they like to fight and nowadays a lot of them are out for themselves because of the economy so a situation in which they're not needed anymore isn't something they're gonna be for.

    If you ask me the homebrew shop's mistakes were hiring a lawyer before trying to talk it out themselves and then letting that lawyer answer in such an assholish fashion without again, picking up the phone to try and talk it out. I'm of the mindset that lawyers should be a last, not 1st resort but then again, I didn't grow up in this country.

    The homebrew shop owner should also get to know the type of people that pay his bills a bit better. He decided to deal with this like if it was a cutthroat business world where normal business rules apply. If that were the case, beer would be much much more expensive because prices would be dictated by supply and demand. He's a retard if he thought this would go over well for them with beer people. He's done more damage to his businesses rep than any microbrewery ever could. If I was a homebrewer and lived in MA, I'd make it a point not to buy from these people.
     
  32. Jason

    Jason Founder (1,330) Massachusetts Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    True but I was looking at "IC 032. US 045 046 048. G & S: Beer."

    I would think that would be the sale of "beer" under their name, so if any of these cafes or bars are selling beer wouldn't it be a violation of the trademark?
     
  33. So G&S Beer would mean both Goods: Beer (product name) and Service: Beer (restaurant providing the service name). Not just that the beer itself would have to be named "Strange Brew" It's a good point.

    I bet there are trademark lawyers that would make a compelling case for both readings of it
     
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  34. JrGtr

    JrGtr Savant (365) Massachusetts Apr 13, 2006

    Legality issues aside, It is (allegedly) a fact that Strange Brew (MA) and Strange Brewing (CO) have been mistaken for one another by customers and vendors. This alone should indicate some change should be made, from one side or the other.
     
  35. The cease and desist is entirely routine in the business world, because trademark owners are obligated to defend their marks even under less confusing circumstances than these. My only problem with that is the lawyer's letter accusing the brewery of "deception" as if this was some attempt to mooch off of the LHBS's reputation rather than the obvious desire to pick a name they thought sounded cool.

    If the brewery would have taken even the most basic steps to prevent confusion, I'd have a bit more sympathy. Looks like the owners decided they weren't infringing and would take their chances despite being aware of the trademark and the website strangebrewing.com. I couldn't care less who finally prevails, but it definitely serves them right for having to lawyer up to defend their choice. Perhaps they should have called their company something like West Denver Brewing d.b.a "Strange Brewing Company of Denver."

    I see hot-headed people taking side with the microbrewery are now going around submitting false 1-star reviews of the LHBS to get even. That's contemptible douchebaggery, as would be false reviews of the brewer's beers.
     
  36. If that was so either Cisco and Sysco would have had to change their name a long time ago.
     
  37. This is an unfortunate scenario for the company that had the business name first. They've worked hard to grow it. Someone comes along and usurps the name to some degree and then the original name holder looks like a bad guy for doing what appears to be right.

    This is why we have laws in place to protect businesses.
     
  38. drtth

    drtth Champion (860) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    A food service company and an electronics company are not likely to be confused with each other by their potential customers, creditors and suppliers as has happened already with the two beer related Strange Brew companies.
     
  39. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Savant (490) Kentucky Apr 20, 2004

    Only one is a Strange Brew company. The other is Strange Brewing.

    However, I do see those as being too close, unlike the Idiot v Idiot Sauvin situation, which wouldnt cause any confusion at all.

    I wonder how far Strange Brewing would have to change their name to satisfy it though? Would Stranger Brewing be enough? How about Strange Brewing of Colorado? How about "People are Strange Brewing Company"? Steal from a song instead of a movie. :)

    Edit: Or is that song instead of a different song?
     
  40. He looks like a bad guy for his choice of tactics, not for trying to protect his trademark. Pick up the phone. Don't hire a lawyer that calls an offer to collaborate offensive and makes ridiculous and false accusations about "promoting" themselves by answering a reporter's questions. Don't go online and falsely accuse Strange of "launching a social media attack". There are ways this could have been handled that would not make him look like a bad guy.
     

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