Peace Tree and No Coast Brewing Company

Discussion in 'Midwest' started by mpdavis, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

    HawkeyePA likes this.
  2. BuzzG

    BuzzG Initiate (93) Dec 6, 2013 Iowa

    I wouldn't be happy either. I'm not the biggest Peace Tree fan but if you know anything about craft beer in Iowa, you have heard of No Coast.

    Or maybe a little google search.
  3. Dolomitey

    Dolomitey Initiate (61) Apr 9, 2015 Iowa

    I understand Peace Tree being upset with a nearby Iowa brewery using it, but I laugh at the claim that they brainstormed and invented the term without ever hearing it before. I find it more likely that they learned New Glarus' frequently expressed commitment to staying only in Wisconsin meant that as long as PT didn't ship to Wisconsin, there wouldn't be a strong claim against using it in Iowa. Having said that and accepting the possibility they did "invent" the term in their brainstorming session, I still side with PT on this matter.
  4. Clarkee

    Clarkee Initiate (125) Aug 18, 2014 Iowa

    It wasn't that they didn't know about the Peace Tree brew.

    "Mahaska Bottling in Oskaloosa, a mere 30 minutes from us, was planning to name their brewery No Coast Brewing Company. Feels a little close. Feels even closer since that same company sent their new head brewer to take a tour at our place last year. We graciously opened our doors and offered up advice to this aspiring homebrewer turning professional as is customary in the craft beer industry. The brewer even complimented the name No Coast."
  5. 515BrewingDave

    515BrewingDave Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Iowa

    I know the PT crew better than most, and, while I was not there when they came up with the name, I would be extremely surprised if that's how it went down.
    12tb likes this.
  6. Dolomitey

    Dolomitey Initiate (61) Apr 9, 2015 Iowa

    My post was poorly written. I don't mean to suggest that they liked the name on Moon Man and set out to co-opt it. I do think their trademark analysis after the fact was a bit advantageous, but NG is an easy target by their own choice.
  7. 515BrewingDave

    515BrewingDave Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Iowa

    It's advantageous that New Glarus is only in Wisconsin, yes. And it appears that No Coast wasn't trademarked prior as the Mahaska guys got that done first. So with no prior use in Iowa, and no registered trademark to violate, they were in the clear.

    I can't tell you how many beer names we've searched and found prior use for. Even got a note from a brewery for "Pallet Jack" which we changed to "Pallet parking" to make everyone happy. (we came up with that after the beer sat in a fermenter on a pallet jack for like 3 weeks during construction)

    fwiw, I know Moon Man by the name Moon Man and I never knew it was a "no coast style IPA".
    BottleCaps80, 12tb, HawkeyePA and 2 others like this.
  8. Roudy1

    Roudy1 Initiate (0) Sep 29, 2012 Iowa

    I remember this. I've also had Pallet Jack and it's pretty good.

    Anywho, I'm all for Peace Tree protecting their beer.
  9. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

    I'll go ahead and play the devil's advocate.

    Peace Tree admitted that NG used the term "no coast pale ale" before they made No Coast IPA, and it appears that they were aware of that fact at the time they named the beer. It is pretty clear that NG was using "no coast" as a euphemism for "midwest", which can be backed up by a quick Google search showing "no coast" isn't an uncommon descriptor for businesses and products from this part of the country. I don't think Peace Tree can claim that "No Coast IPA" was a novel enough name to claim it as their own.

    According to BA, there are 44 breweries with a "West Coast IPA" (and that doesn't include all of the "West Coast Style IPA" or other variations). Naming a beer "West Coast IPA" is the same as naming it "Porter" or "Milk Stout". Left Hand can't get mad when other breweries sell a "Milk Stout" and Lagunitas can't get mad when other breweries sell an "IPA" (...wait, bad example).

    All of that said, I still think opening a "No Coast Brewing Company" within 30 miles of Peace Tree falls pretty firmly in the "dick move" category. I just don't know if it falls in the "trademark infringement" category.
    Jerkface and Clarkee like this.
  10. 515BrewingDave

    515BrewingDave Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Iowa

    Unless something is trademarked prior to you using it, OR it has been used in your sales territory prior to you using it, it's not really an issue. Since NG doesn't sell in Iowa, unless they have Spotted Cow trademarked, you can call a beer here spotted cow if you wanted to. I wouldn't advise it, but it's (probably) legal.

    Likewise, someone could sell a beer in Wisconsin called Blonde Fatale if Peace Tree wasn't already up there (and if PT didn't have it trademarked)

    Where it gets tricky is if you're both in the same area. That's where prior use and trademark priority come into play. If you trademark something and it's already in use, basically the first person to use it gets to keep using it in the territory they were already using it in, but if they want to expand out of that territory, they will have to use a different name.

    So I feel that peace tree is clearly in the right here, and using one of their current brands as a brewery name is a very tenuous proposition even if you beat them to a trademark. At the very least I can't see them making an IPA under that name legally. Even a pale ale might be confusing enough to make them change it.

    Also it's not just the name, but the name tied to a specific product. So you could do a No Coast sweater company and that's different enough from no coast IPA that it's not an infringement (unless maybe you called it No Coast IPA sweater company and used the logo or something). The issue is "would someone be confused and mistake this product for another". If I order a beer and might expect to get a sweater, then yeah it's confusing. Otherwise it's not an issue.
    Think of it this way: you walk into Iowa taproom and order a "No Coast". What should you expect to get? If there's confusion, there's probably a good case to be made that there's a problem.

    It also appears they "borrowed" the pils name from a Cabco release last year, intentionally or not, which, interestingly enough, has a few traditional iowa beer names in its lineup (Blackhawk, Pointer, and more I'm forgetting I'm sure).
    BottleCaps80, 12tb, BrettHead and 3 others like this.
  11. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

    There has to be a certain level of novelty in the name though. If I were to walk into EBS and order a "nitro milk stout" there would be confusion as well. Am I talking about Left Hand's beer, or am I just looking for a generic milk stout served on nitro?

    If we look at "no coast" as simply a description of the type of IPA that it is, then No Coast Brewing Company is no different than if someone opened a West Coast Brewing Company in California. For now we can ignore the fact that there is a West Coast Brewing Company in Austrailia. They don't have laws there.

    I admit the argument is sketchy at best, but I think it behooves us to at least entertain other views. I don't know that it actually holds up to much scrutiny though.
    12tb likes this.
  12. B-Nut-GoBlue

    B-Nut-GoBlue Aspirant (279) Apr 22, 2014 Iowa

    "They said they aren’t doing an IPA so it really wouldn’t matter".

    This here is quite the novel idea.
    mrpeterandthepuffers likes this.
  13. 515BrewingDave

    515BrewingDave Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Iowa

    I'm not sure what would happen if you named a brewery after a style. Amber brewing? Lambic Brewing? My guess is, since it's a widely used name (nevermind that no coast isn't really a style in anyone's mind) you wouldn't be able to protect it at all. And if that WAS the point of the name, the decision to not do an IPA is very curious.

    I get trying to play devils advocate - I always try to do that too. But remember when you do, you're generally advocating for the devil.

    On its face, and if you look at the marketing materials and whatnot, to me, it's very clear what the point of it is. It's the Donald Trump school of publicity. Be outlandish. Get people talking. Doesn't matter what the truth is. No press is worse than bad press blah blah blah.

    At the end of the day, for the consumer, it's all about the beer I guess. Inside the industry, though, this sort of thing isn't going to win them many friends.
  14. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

    I don't think that no coast is a style, simply a geographical descriptor of the style, in this case IPAs. There are english IPAs, west coast IPAs, new england IPAs, and no coast IPAs. No coast IPAs aren't nearly as popular as the others, but I can point to Moon Man as an example of at least one other beer using no coast as a geographic descriptor of a common style. If Peace Tree is allowed to claim "No Coast IPA" as a trademarked name, any of the 44 breweries putting out a "West Coast IPA" could also make a similar claim.

    One thing that I overlooked, and Peace Tree failed to mention in their post, is that there is already a "No Coast IPA" put out by Bull and Bush Brewery. It was first added to BA in 2008, well before Peace Tree admits they started using the name.
  15. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

  16. 515BrewingDave

    515BrewingDave Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2013 Iowa

    It's definitely a (made up) descriptor of a (loosely defined) style which I'm not sure is even trademark-able. I think some of that is common sense. I know of literally nobody else that believes that "No Coast" is a style of beer.

    Again, prior use is what we are talking about here. It doesn't matter who was using a name prior to a trademark being filed, so much as where they were using it. After a trademark is filed, yes it does matter. If someone comes along and makes a "No Coast Pale Ale" in Oklahoma, No Coast in Mahaska has that first now that they've filed trademark on it, and the Oklahoma place would have to stop if Mahaska asked them to. If the Oklahoma place did a No Coast IPA, ironically, the Mahaska brewery would also be able to stop them, but Peace Tree would not (as they haven't sold there, nor are they the No Coast trademark holders).

    Nobody else in Iowa or selling in Iowa was making anything "no coast IPA" either as a style descriptor or as a brand name prior to peace tree. Nor was the name trademarked. Peace tree was first to market here.

    Full stop that's all that matters in the Legal debate.

    I know it seems somewhat pedantic, but the law is somewhat pedantic in this case.
  17. Dolomitey

    Dolomitey Initiate (61) Apr 9, 2015 Iowa

    PT essentially makes both an ethical and legal argument. On the former, they lose some credibility by not being able to say "as a member of the craft beer community, we reached out to our neighbors and they had no problem with us using No Coast". On the latter, I like their legal position. However, I'm still wondering how they went from "No Coast Pale Ale is merely descriptive" to building their brand (in part) around the term they literally just decided was unfit for trademark. That's what I mean by an 'advantageous trademark analysis'.
    12tb likes this.
  18. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Defender (615) Jan 12, 2013 Iowa

    Without brewing an IPA, this brewery is likely going to die a quick death anyway. IPA is the #1 selling craft beer style (by leaps and bounds) in the US and Iowa is no different. Their beer lineup doesn't sound all that great (Amber, Blonde, Pale Ale, Stout). More like a late 90's brewery lineup, not a 2016 lineup.
    beer_broad and errantnight like this.
  19. 12tb

    12tb Initiate (137) May 18, 2011 Iowa

    I see what you're saying, but I think you're misstating PT's position when you say they determined it was unfit for trademark. I think what PT's position was is that NG was not using the term as a trademark. To be a trademark, generally it must be used it as an identifier for the product or source of the product, not just to describe the product. If you intend for something to be a descriptor, it won't be a trademark. If I describe a beer as "a beer brewed by 12tb," that's less likely to be a trademark than if I stamp the beer "12tb Beer," even though the information/content is the same.
    BrettHead likes this.
  20. mpdavis

    mpdavis Initiate (176) Apr 24, 2014 Iowa

    I'm not arguing that "No Coast" is a style of beer. I am arguing "No Coast" is a geographical description that can be applied to style of beer. Nobody believes that "West Coast" or "English" are styles of beer, but you can use them to describe existing styles.

    This take me back to the issue of novelty. I would agree with every single one of your points if the beer in question had a novel, unique name. If someone had opened a "Hop Sutra Brewing Company" or "Royal 41 Brewing Company" the story would be much easier.

    However, since the beer in question is simply "(geographical descriptor) (style)" I think it does introduce at least some gray area. Surely we can agree that beer names that are simply "(style)" hold no legal basis to be trademarked. It simply is not novel enough. Adding a geographical description to a style is a common pattern in beer as well, especially when we talk about the IPA scene.

    I understand that you have much more experience with this, and I assume that you have even talked to lawyers about the whole issue, but I also imagine that the advice they have given you would be skewed towards keeping you out of a courtroom altogether, and not towards a position you would probably win, but maybe not. Lawyers are simply not in the business of giving legal information that will only hold up part of the time.

    To be clear, I don't think that NoCoast has anywhere close to a solid case here, but I do think there is judge out there that would rule in their favor if it came to that.

    I think we can all agree that NoCoast has no moral or ethical leg to stand on and that this is a dick move.
    errantnight likes this.
  21. errantnight

    errantnight Savant (975) Jul 7, 2005 Iowa

    Yeah, it's extremely strange to proudly not brew an IPA, and also not brew anything else that's particularly trendy or that there aren't numerous established alternatives to. It seems implausible these guys will be around for long given their projected lineup and ill-will they're building up in advance of launch, but if they do, it would seem a clear sign the local market is still underserved for local options.
    BrettHead likes this.
  22. 12tb

    12tb Initiate (137) May 18, 2011 Iowa

    I think you're overstating the novelty/uniqueness requirement a little, at least as far as something being eligible for trademark protection. Trademarks don't necessarily have to be unique or novel. The more novel, the better the protection. But novelty/uniqueness of the term/mark is not necessarily a requirement. More to the point, geographical descriptions can be trademarked. Russian River and Sierra Nevada undoubtedly have trademarks on those names even though both are geographical descriptions. I'd guess "Maine Beer Company" also is trademarked. It takes a lot for a mark to be so "non-unique" or "non-novel" that it's not "trademarkable" whatsoever (Aquafina can't trademark "bottled water" or "water bottle" or "water").

    Where uniqueness/novelty more often comes into play is in how strong the trademark is and in the "likelihood of confusion" analysis, which is what courts use to determine if a trademark is being violated. This analysis asks, essentially, if I see a product made by the allegedly infringing producer, am I likely to think the source of that good is actually the other trademark holder? The more novel/unique a mark, the more closely it is associated with a product/brand, and therefore the more likely it is that any use of that mark will meet this standard. But there are many factors... proximity of the two products/brands, how related are the two products/brands (industry, etc.), whether they operate in the same locations or market(s), how the trademark is used by the alleged infringer, etc. By way of example, I probably could start "Apple Brewing Company" without infringing on Apple Computer's trademarks since we'd be operating in different industries (assuming I kept logos/colors/slogans unique as well).

    Here, we're talking about two microbreweries within the same state, potential evidence that the alleged infringer was aware of and stole the term/mark, and a term/mark that, while not entirely unique, isn't used very much within or without the industry.
    BrettHead likes this.
  23. dugbrandon

    dugbrandon Initiate (0) Dec 24, 2010 Iowa

    I can't figure out how to share this properly so I'll just copy/pasta this facebook post.

    The Iowa Taproom6 hrs
    I want to make sure everyone knows I have and my businesses have been big supporters of Peace Tree Brewing from their beginning. We have also been big supporters of all Iowa Breweries since the start of our businesses. We even built a place in honor and support of Iowa Breweries, which couldn't have happened without the support of our state's breweries and fans. Our support of Iowa Breweries is the point I want to make, we support them in their successes and their miss steps. It is tough starting a business, but even tougher staying relevant to the fans and customers of that business. This is why I have chosen to post-pone our event with the new Oskaloosa brewery to a future date. Thanks for your support! Jeff "Bruno" Bruning, owner

    I don't think this new brewery stands a chance if they don't do something quickly to rectify the situation. The Iowa brewing industry is tight knit and for the most part everyone gets along well and supports one another. I wouldn't want to be the one guy to ruffle the feathers of everyone else.
    dragonaut and joebombs like this.
  24. bismarksays

    bismarksays Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2008 Iowa

    If I walk into a Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits in my area and ask for No Coast, they will take me to Peace Tree right away.
    It is not much different than if you wanted to call your brewery Two Hearted Brewing or Arrogant Bastard Ales.
    This is a really bad way to get started in the business, but trying to stand on the shoulders of others and hope somebody thinks you are tall.
    Ericksne likes this.
  25. bismarksays

    bismarksays Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2008 Iowa

    Been drinking New Glarus beers from Wisconsin for years. Nobody ever calls it it No Coast Pale. They always call it Moon Man. I think it possible somebody threw it out there and didn't realize it.
    Also, as someone who worked at a store that handled redemption, 80 percent of all New Glarus bottles we got were Spotted Cow. Probably 10% were Simpy Naked. All the rest of their products the other 10.
  26. dlphnfn

    dlphnfn Initiate (60) Aug 13, 2011 Iowa

    The big difference between your comparison and the No Coast situation is that your 2 examples are both Trademarked. Had PT trademarked No Coast, this thread wouldn't exist.
  27. 12tb

    12tb Initiate (137) May 18, 2011 Iowa

    You trademark something just by using it. You can also register that trademark to gain additional rights/benefits, but registration is not required. So, PT did "trademark" No Coast when they started using that name in commerce.
  28. BrettHead

    BrettHead Initiate (0) Sep 18, 2010 Nebraska

    Indeed, actual use takes precedent over trademark. And a trademark takes precedent where (geographically typically) no use has occurred.
    bismarksays likes this.
  29. threedjmay

    threedjmay Initiate (69) Apr 27, 2014 Iowa

    Has anyone tried any of their beers? I've seen their cans, but have been staying away.
  30. Averwo

    Averwo Disciple (308) Jul 4, 2013 Iowa

    I bought a 4 pack of the Yoga Poser pale ale. Not bad. Smooth and drinkable but nothing that wows you about it. Probably won't get it again.
  31. bufante

    bufante Aspirant (248) Jun 28, 2014 Iowa

    Where can a person buy some, I'm a sucker for new beer? Always hunting....
  32. Averwo

    Averwo Disciple (308) Jul 4, 2013 Iowa

    Waterfront Hy Vee in Iowa City has 3 or 4 different beers from them. Only place I've it.
    bufante likes this.