News Coronado Brewing Co. Sues Elysian

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by crvcac, Jul 11, 2012.

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  1. 66jzmstr

    66jzmstr Devotee (408) Jul 17, 2005 Washington
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  2. Duff27

    Duff27 Poo-Bah (1,779) Feb 10, 2010 Illinois
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  3. harrymel

    harrymel Initiate (0) Dec 15, 2010 Washington

    litheum94 and cavedave like this.
  4. BeerFan95

    BeerFan95 Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2007 New York

    A few questions:
    The article fails to mention if there was an attempt to resolve this amicably between the two brewers. Did Corondao contact Elysian and ask them to change the name? Is there a easy way for Brewers to check if a name is owned or controlled? I'd seriously like to know.

    I would like to know if you can copyright a word like that.
    As far as I know they(Coronado) really don't have an "Idiot" Series like Stone has "Vertical Epic" and Sam Adams has "Barrel Room Collection". Elysian doesn't have an Idiot Series Either.

    In this case it seems part of a name and although the word "idiot" is in the name the names are not Identical. One is called "Idiot IPA" and the other is "Idiot Sauvin IPA". The Sauvin is in reference to the name of the hop used.

    I know the term "steam" is copyrighted mainly because it has a meaning. But "idiot" isn't in that same category.
  5. LegalBrew87

    LegalBrew87 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2012 California

    The term you are looking for is trademark, not copyright. And yes, the word "idiot" is trademarked and owned by Coronado (at least as it applies to beer). The amount of protection a trademark will receive is based on how "strong" the mark is considered. Strength is determined in an infringement action and can be fairly complicated, so I won't really go into it, but two marks (beer labels in this case) do not have to be identical for one to be infringing the other. One just needs to be confusingly similar to the other. The stronger a mark is considered, the more likely a similar mark will be considered confusingly similar. Without knowing a number of things that go into analyzing a mark's strength, I would think "idiot" is a fairly strong mark, and Coronado could probably keep most, if not all companies, from using it to refer to their beer.
    BeerFan95 and Beerandraiderfan like this.
  6. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    Disagree with the last sentence, I would think "Idiot" is fairly weak and that something that used the word "idiot" in another phrase would not be considered infringing. But the thing is, who knows how the courts would rule.

    "Coronado", on the other hand, would be a strong mark, so if Elysian made a Coronado Pale Ale, I would see infringement.

    However, you are a professional and Im not. So why do you think "Idiot" would be considered strong enough to be confusing?
  7. LegalBrew87

    LegalBrew87 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2012 California

    Actually, you probably have it backwards. Marks are generally classified on a scale of increasing strength. The classifications include:
    - generic marks, which are never protectable (think kleenex and zipper);
    - descriptive marks, which directly describes the qualities or characteristics of the good in a literal way and are not automatically entitled to any protection (something like "Simcoe IPA" or "Heavy Hopped IPA");
    - suggestive marks, which take some imagination to associate the mark with the product (Roach Motel is a common example, but something like Duet or Ruination would likely fall into this category as well);
    -arbitrary marks, which are real english words that have nothing to do with the product at all (Idiot IPA would likely fall into this category, as would something like Sculpin or Pliny); and finally
    -fanciful marks, which are totally made up words or symbols (Kodak or Clorox for example).

    Keep in mind this is only one aspect of a fairly complicated area of law, but in general, the further down the spectrum the mark falls, the broader the scope of protection it will be afforded.
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  8. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    Couple of things:

    1. I thought Kleenex was still in the bottom group, as they protected it well, hence they are facial tissues to everyone else.

    2. I would think Coronado would also be a fanciful mark.

    3. I agree with you on Idiot, however, there is a difference between Idiot and Idiot Sauvin, as the Sauvin clearly falls into the descriptive part, and the Idiot paired with it in an obvious punny way creates a clear separation from Idiot by itself. If Coronado had a series of beers named "Idiot [hop]" then "Idiot Sauvin" would be a clear infringement.

    3B. The combination of Idiot with Sauvin would seem to combine to form a fanciful mark in a way that Idiot by itself doesnt, which at least seems to cause separation.

    As an example, there are 134 beers in the BA database with "monkey" in the title. Obviously that is arbitrary and not suggestive or descriptive, but if the first one had been named Monkey Ale and been trademarked, I dont see any reason to think the other 133 would need to be shut down.

    As an aside, "Monkey's Dunkel" is a clever name. Moreso than Idiot Sauvin.
  9. LegalBrew87

    LegalBrew87 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2012 California

    See bold ^^^
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  10. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    I didnt make it clear, but my point is, I dont see how Idiot v Idiot Sauvin causes any confusion, which is also a requirement, IIRC.

    If Coronado had made Idiot Cascade then, yes, a typical consumer might be confused and think Idiot Sauvin was the next in the series. But, the use of the word idiot doesnt in and of itself cause any confusion, IMO, as long as the packaging is clearly different. As the word isnt made up, I dont see how by itself it would be strong enough.
  11. spentplanet

    spentplanet Initiate (0) Mar 12, 2010 Massachusetts

    fuck the law. listen to gg allin and chug tasty brews.
    Beerandraiderfan likes this.
  12. DrunkenMonk

    DrunkenMonk Disciple (319) Jun 2, 2012 California

    I'm confused. Are we talking about the beer with the cool label or the ugly label? They both say idiot....I'm confused.
    Oh, wait. I get it. One is an IPA. Well crap, my store sells about 50 IPAs. Are these ALL Coronado beers? Need help....confused. I guess I'm just an idiot.
    beerFool28607 likes this.
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