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

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

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  1. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky


    You lawyer up after the phone call. Or, even if you send a minimal C&D, you follow up with a phone call and try to work things out.
    FrankLloydMike and nanobrew like this.
  2. nanobrew

    nanobrew Initiate (0) Dec 31, 2008 California

    The first letter from the lawyer I don't have a problem with. It was harshly and coarsely worded, but I think that is typical in legal documents. However, the second letter is where they seemed to over-react... though it is their trademark and they can defend it how they want, I just think they could have done it more delicately.
  3. emannths

    emannths Initiate (182) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    If I were either party, I wouldn't want to go through this process without a lawyer. Strange Brewing may be bitching about having to hire one, but even if they had received that "amicable phone call" so many of you are clamoring for, do you really think they'd agree to a binding resolution without consulting an attorney?

    Sorry folks, but legal issues call for attorney. Yeah, the letters look aggressive and ugly to the layman, but any attorney reading them wouldn't bat an eyelash. It's just how the sausage is made.
    Beerandraiderfan and Rempo like this.
  4. steve8robin

    steve8robin Savant (968) Nov 7, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Can't help but wonder why either would fight for such humdrum brand names. Both are just "eh" company names. I understand maybe that they have already begun branding themselves under these names, but the brand names just aren't good. One of them should just give it up and find a more interesting brand name.
  5. ablackshear

    ablackshear Initiate (128) Sep 17, 2010 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Who knows what they would agree to? The point is not that it would have been easily resolved, but that there wouldn't be such a negative backlash against the owner of the homebrew shop if he'd handled this differently.

    The tone of the letters from the attorney might be perfectly normal in a case like this, but the inaccurate rant he posted yesterday is not. In my opinion that is the more egregious mistake.
  6. Stewmeister91

    Stewmeister91 Aspirant (279) Apr 7, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I don't want brewers handling legal issues and I don't want lawyers making my beer
  7. tjensen3618

    tjensen3618 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2008 California

    I wonder how beer geeks would react if a new homebrew shop opened up with the name, Russian River Brew supplies?

    I'm gonna do it, then demand that we collaborate = instant success for me!
    ABarthol and JrGtr like this.
  8. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,168) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Not exactly a big fan of how either party has acted and reacted, but that name is about as common as they come. I never really cared for it even back when Tim and John started using it.
  9. geoffsm12

    geoffsm12 Initiate (0) Mar 11, 2010 Illinois

    I have never heard of either of these companies before today. Since the thread started with a link that referred to a lawyer's letter as a "nasty-gram" I'll post this link from beerpulse that has the homebrew shop's side of things. Appears that the shop's eventual plan to brew may be a huge factor in their perception of the problem.

    Seems to be the people from Denver are inclined to side with their new brewery, while people who have purchased from the shop will side with them. There's a lot of talk about being "chill dudes" and "harshing mellows" but ultimately this is why we have laws (n.b. I'm not a lawyer).
    nanobrew likes this.
  10. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Devotee (442) Nov 29, 2006 Colorado

    Anyone had the beer: "Collaberation, not Litigation?" Delicious. and a great story. Just sayin. Just sayin.
  11. ablackshear

    ablackshear Initiate (128) Sep 17, 2010 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    It's not a matter of "brewers handling legal issues". Going adversarial from the get-go and refusing to discuss the matter (you'll notice that in Strange's reply they asked to have a meeting to talk about it), and then taking to the internet to make false accusations against Strange was just a bad way to handle it. I'm not a lawyer, I don't know what should happen here legally, I'm just saying it certainly could have been handled better by the home brew shop.

    from his statement yesterday:
    "Simply put, they are trying to profit from the valuable reputation and the good will that we have built up over the last 16 years in our brand. ... instead of facing up to the situation, they have decided to “fight back” by stirring up a social media lynch mob, trashing us and our lawyer for protecting our brand."

    accusations of bad faith, and completely false accusations of a lynch mob and trashing the laywer are completely uncalled for
  12. krantul

    krantul Initiate (117) May 18, 2005 Massachusetts

    The vast majority of successful breweries have trademarks on their names and it's naive to think that they wouldn't defend their brand. Bell's sent a cease-and-desist to the Northern Brewer homebrew shop for their clone recipe of Two-Hearted (which they had been calling Three-Hearted). Try opening a nanobrewery called 'Sierra Nevada Aleworks' or something and see how far you get. Some breweries have indeed been very chill about this sort of thing, but I doubt the ones who spent money on a trademark would let it slide.

    Strange Brew has two trademarks registered in 2007, one for the homebrew supply... and the other for beer. Like most homebrewers, they dreamed of starting a brewery one day and had the foresight to register that trademark for intent to use.

    Opinion generally gravitates to the perceived underdog. But what if Strange Brewing wasn't a bunch of nice dudes in Colorado, but rather a faux craft beer brand owned by Anheuser-Busch? Would people still be picking on Strange Brew for protecting their trademark?
    Beerandraiderfan and ABarthol like this.
  13. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (385) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    It is indeed, but unfortunately it doesn't really have an analogy in this situation. CnL was a result of two breweries using the same name, about the same time. This is a case of a homebrew shop using a name for 15+ years, and a brewery comeing up within the past 2 choosing a very similar name.
    The offer to authorize homebrew kits was interesting, but unfortunately it really doesn't have any upside for the HB shop. No one here (almost no one) in Mass knows about the brwery (until this situation) and no one knows their beer and what it tastes like. Why should they want to brew an unknown.
    Not to mention the offer leaves the underlying issue completely behind. The point isn;t recipes, it's people and vendors confusing the one for the other and the use of a name that is too similar.
  14. mmcgrath

    mmcgrath Initiate (0) Mar 3, 2003 Massachusetts

    there was most certainly a social media attack by supporters of the brewery, that is as undeniable as it was ugly.
    mschofield likes this.
  15. ablackshear

    ablackshear Initiate (128) Sep 17, 2010 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Of course there was, but what's your point? It had nothing to do with Strange, so his accusation was false and completely unwarranted.

    In his own words: "they have decided to “fight back” by stirring up a social media lynch mob"
  16. phishon6

    phishon6 Initiate (0) Jan 20, 2012 Illinois

    seems like strange brew (co) should have covered their bases better in the first place when starting out, but strange brew (ma) could have handled this much better. guessing this is being pushed much harder by their lawyer, because he makes out best in this whole thing. or possibly, a very calculated move by the home brew co. to drum up some free advertising for itself. it has garnered a lot of attention here alone. too bad trademark laws are given to unoriginal names in the first place.
  17. mmcgrath

    mmcgrath Initiate (0) Mar 3, 2003 Massachusetts

    unless you can definitively disprove collusion, i think it's a fair and logical assumption to make.
  18. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (385) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    Strange Brewing (CO) may not have actively encouraged the 'social media lynch mob' but they sure didn't discourage it.
  19. TheRealDBCooper

    TheRealDBCooper Aspirant (207) Mar 17, 2010 Svalbard & Jan Mayen Islands
    Beer Trader

    I worked for a transport company called "Burlington Air Express" that people would confuse with "Burlington Coat Factory" (or insist that we were related) on a regular basis. Just because some people are stupid doesn't mean a company has to change anything.
  20. geocool

    geocool Initiate (175) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    Um, that beer was brewed by two companies with completely different names -- I'm not seeing how it relates to this situation. It's not like Avery Brewing decided to change their name to Russian River. Just sayin.
  21. TheRealDBCooper

    TheRealDBCooper Aspirant (207) Mar 17, 2010 Svalbard & Jan Mayen Islands
    Beer Trader

    Now my real take:

    • The guys at Strange Brewing are idiots for not filing a trademark before opening
    • This would have clarified things long before real money was spent on the brand
    • It will now cost them money to rebrand as I see their chances of winning this at less than 50% (though not zero)
    • The guy from Strange Brew is an idiot for the amount of business he will lose from all the negative PR
    • I question his ability to successfully run a brewery as it is very much a people business and he doesn't appear to have even the slightest acumen in this department
    • The proper response should have been a short statement of, "I plan to open a brewery under the name and have been slowly working towards this objective, which is why I filed a trademark years before Strange Brewing opened."
    • Instead he (and his lawyer) responded with more inanity, paranoid rantings, and out right stupidity than an episode of Real Housewives.

    (And please don't do business with dickish, unreasonable people. It just encourages them.)
  22. Chin17

    Chin17 Initiate (130) Aug 1, 2009 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Per Strange Brewing's Facebook page:
    Thank you all again for your continued support through this trying ordeal. We really appreciate it!!

    We have one favor to ask. Please DO NOT call the Homebrew Shop to harass. We do not need to stoop to the level of those calling the brewery this week to harass employees. All of us are better than that. The Homebrew Shop has a business to run, as do we. Thanks for your understanding. Cheers!
  23. Immortale25

    Immortale25 Poo-Bah (2,940) May 13, 2011 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I think the lawsuit is quite silly but, honestly, this is what happens when you name your brewery something so generic and cliche. If they had named themselves something more original, they wouldn't even be in this mess.
    TheRealDBCooper likes this.
  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,180) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The co-operative brew began over a naming dispute, since both breweries had beers called Salvation.

    Craft Brewers Shun Product Name Dispute
  25. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Devotee (442) Nov 29, 2006 Colorado

    You're right about the kits probably not being a success, but how many times in the craft brewing industry do breweries work together to achieve a goal that is benefitial for all parties? At least Strange Brewing reached out and attempted to make something work, even after the initial threatening letter. If the homebrew shop really wants to get into the brewing industry (based on what I've read this doesn't seem too plausible) they need to learn that the industry simply doesn't do business that way, outside of Inbev and the giants.

    Last night at the liqour store I saw several beers that shared the same name as others.... You don't see them going after eachother over trademark disputes...

    And one last thing: How the hell does the homebrew shop think either party really would effect the other whatsoever? Maybe one day if they both became monsters in the industry.... but one is homebrew shop, and the other is a brewery.... It's pure idiocracy.
  26. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (385) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    That's my point, is that it's a different situation. That name of a beer or product is one thing, the company name is something else. If I decided to open a brewery and call it Russia River, how fast would a cease and desist be on the way. On the other hand... I am a homebrewer, I have a beer I'm brewing this week, that I have a name for. If I go pro, and take this name, if someone else is is using it already, I'd hope to get a simple call or email first, to try to work it out.
  27. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,434) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    I doubt he loses much of anything, if anything at all. Certainly the people who tried to flood his yelp reviews have never even shopped there.
    A brewery is a people business, but a retail homebrew shop isn't a people business? Please, they've expanded twice in the past 5 or so years at least doubling in size each time, they're doing a fine job running a people business.

    I get what Strange Brewing was trying to do with the collaboration kit idea, and I hope it ends up that way. Some sort of formal acknowledgment that the two businesses are aware of each other and that they don't believe either one is violating the other's trademark. That way they can both go about their business, yet they're both still protected from anyone who wants to claim the trademarks were abandoned when they weren't defended.
  28. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (328) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    One thing's for sure, David Schachter Esq. is learning about the passion of the craft brewing community!
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,180) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Well, yeah, a brewery name and a beer name are different, but most people in this thread probably see them both as falling under the general heading of "trademark conflicts". Since RR and Avery included the term "Litigation" in their joint brew's name, one would guess they also thought that their particular beer name situation might have gone that legal route.
  30. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    Sorry but the beer industry IS cutthroat and normal business rules DO apply - just because craft beer is made by smaller companies vs. corporations does not change this. Believing the altruistic notions marketed by brewers that we are all here to get along and provide beer for the love of it is naive - people's livelyhoods and that of their families are at stake. Might as well get used to it and let the businesses fight it out amongst themeselves - otherwise many are going to be hugely dissapointed when your favorite brewers engage in the same practice (if they haven't already and it just didn't become public). It's only going to get more and more ugly in the future - especially when craft growth scales back.
    beertunes and mschofield like this.
  31. NoRemorse

    NoRemorse Initiate (0) Oct 30, 2012 Massachusetts

    My .02. I live in Marlborough Ma and go to Strange Brew when I'm in a pinch and haven't thoroughly thought out my next batch. They do rely heavily on online sales of brewing equipment and kits, because of this I can see why they are worried about their reputation outside of the local area. I have also heard that they may be starting a brewery(rumored).

    Yes they both could have handled things differently, but I just wanted to give a little intel from a local who knows the homebrew shop.
  32. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (385) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    Again there is a difference between a BEER name and BREWERY / BUSINESS name.
    If I asked for Avery Salvation, there's a minimal chance of getting RR Salvation. IIRC, at the time, I don't think Avery even distributed to California (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) However, they did realize there was another brew with the same name and decided to work together. It works out for all involved.

    There is another case that I was recently reading about, where a new brewery in Rhode Island was forced to change their name. Full Sail Brewing had a trademark dispute (note this is what we have in this case) with Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island. Now the official name of Grey is, Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island.
    IMO, if Strange Brewing had come up with something a bit more constructive in their original reply letter than offering to sell homebrew kits of their recipes, we wouldn't be talking about it right now. Now, could the letters both ways been more diplomatic? Of Course. But when lawyers get involved, diplomacy goes out the window.
  33. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Devotee (442) Nov 29, 2006 Colorado

    But, as many have mentioned, we're still speaking about two different names: Strangbrew and Strange Brewing. I feel like this is going around in circles, but I don't see how that name even infringes on the homebrew shop. As Jason mentioned earlier, there are plenty of places out there with some variation of the names not having a suit slapped on them. I'm personally fine with the bad press the homebrew shop is getting. My lhbs would never even dream of going down that route. They are true class act guys- the type that would give you the shirt off of their back.
    SatlyMalty likes this.
  34. nesarebad

    nesarebad Devotee (456) Feb 4, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    How would you know unless they were put in the same situation?
    JrGtr likes this.
  35. taez555

    taez555 Poo-Bah (1,588) Dec 9, 2002 Massachusetts

    Does Strange Brew still use the Grateful Dead dancing bear for their logo? :)
  36. sandiego67

    sandiego67 Initiate (0) Feb 25, 2008 California

    Triple Rock Brew House in Berkeley, CA changed their from Roaring Rock after some pressure from Rolling Rock.
  37. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Devotee (442) Nov 29, 2006 Colorado

    I know this because I know them. They are constantly involving themselves with other breweries and businesses. This is the spirit of craft brewing. I can tell you they'd rather lose a profit than make enemies... Just the types of guys they are.
  38. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Devotee (442) Nov 29, 2006 Colorado

    I agree completely. It's completely ridiculous how the homebrew shop paints themself the victim when they honestly can't say they've lost a dime because of the brewery. They mentioned some confusion among their clientele, but did not provide any real facts or monetary value or losses.
  39. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,434) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    the same one dogfish head just unveiled for their Grateful Dead beer :)
  40. ArrogantB

    ArrogantB Poo-Bah (3,024) Jun 9, 2006 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    I wish they could force Strange Brewing Co to change their beers before their name. Truly mediocre beers.
    claspada and dauss like this.
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