News Trademark complaints filed by Bell's against Jackson County's Innovation Brewing dismissed

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Miles_in_beer_city, Jan 12, 2018 at 7:39 PM.

  1. Miles_in_beer_city

    Miles_in_beer_city Disciple (310) Jun 18, 2014 North Carolina

    ASHEVILLE - A long-lingering trademark dispute between a tiny local brewery and a big Michigan beer maker has finally come to a close.

    Innovation Brewing can keep its name and branding, despite action taken by Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

    The David-and-Goliath tale began in 2015 when Bell's, which makes more than 310,000 barrels of beer annually, filed a complaint against Innovation, which sold only about 500 barrels that year, mostly in Jackson County.

    Bell's said Innovation's name sounded too much like the bigger brewery's unregistered advertising slogan, "Bottling innovation since 1985."

    The larger brewery also claimed the word “inspired,” which Bell's has used on some logos and marketing materials within the phrase "Inspired Brewing," carries the same meaning as the word “innovation.”

    Bell's asked Innovation to withdraw its federal trademark application, although the Bell's slogan is only used on promotional materials and doesn't show up on any of the brewery's packaging.

    That seemed to figure heavily into the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's Dec. 20 decision to dismiss the opposition from Bell's.

    The TTAB found that the slogan in question had not been “used and/or advertised ... in connection with a single product (so) that they have come to be associated together, in the mind of the purchasing public" with Bell's products.

    “Considered in their entireties, we find that Inspired Brewing and Innovated Brewing differ in sight, sound, meaning, and overall commercial impression to an extent" that confusion is unlikely, the ruling found.

    Nicole Dexter and Chip Owen, who founded Innovation in 2013, told the Citizen Times in 2015 the Innovation name stemmed from their creative means of assembling a brewing system.

    "Innovation is what we had to do to make everything work," Owen said at the time, citing limited funds.

    Owen and Dexter said at the time that costly legal fees from the dispute prevented them from buying any new brewing equipment.

    Bell's spokesman Josh Hovey in 2015 told the Citizen Times that the dispute wasn't about pitting breweries against one another, citing Bell's own 1997 trademark dispute.

    "It's not so different from when Bell's had to change the name of their beer years ago," Hovey said. "They ended up having to change the name of one of their most popular beers — their Oberon summer wheat beer — from Solsun to Oberon because Solsun was too similar to a Mexican beer called El Sol."

    Hovey continued, "We hope (Innovation) will do well. We want them to succeed. We want the whole industry to do well. It's just unfortunate that it has come to this."

    Both Innovation's and Bell's owners were not immediately available for comment Friday. Innovation is at 414 W. Main St. in Sylva.

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    JackHorzempa, Jaycase, abb610 and 2 others like this.
  2. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    This is great to hear. Fuck Bell's for doing this.
    PJ_, ShawnoftheD3ad, brock125 and 9 others like this.
  3. AyatollahGold

    AyatollahGold Devotee (488) Nov 28, 2016 Indiana
    Beer Trader

  4. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    You've certainly got to protect your trademarks, but there was no direct trademark infringement here as no two brands shared the same or similar name AND the two breweries aren't in competition with each other, so there is no danger of one being mistaken for the other.
  5. abb610

    abb610 Disciple (323) Oct 14, 2010 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Suck it bells!!! I haven't had one of your beers since this all started and I haven't missed them in the slightest. I will never again drink one of their beers. Ironically they haven't brewed anything INNOVATIVE in a long time. Viva Innovation Brewing, Viva North Carolina breweries!!!!
  6. mt817

    mt817 Initiate (107) Mar 31, 2015 Michigan

    Huge fan of Bell's (drinking a Black Note as I type) but this was super shitty of them.
    craigo19, abb610 and AyatollahGold like this.
  7. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,133) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Drinking a Bell's as I type. They have a right to protect themselves, just like anyone. They thought they were being infringed upon and took action. They lost and will move on, I'm sure. They haven't sold out to anyone and remain independent. Give them a break. Business owners deserve the opportunity to defend their business. There's nothing wrong with what they did. Why does everyone today believe anytime a larger company takes some action against a smaller company, suddenly they're evil?
  8. mt817

    mt817 Initiate (107) Mar 31, 2015 Michigan

    No one was confusing Bells and Innovation. I live in MI and spend plenty of time in NC. It just wasn't happening. There's a difference between protecting yourself and your brand and not playing nice in the sandbox.
  9. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,133) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I could be wrong, but I don't believe Bell's has a history of doing this. I trust they must have felt this was needed and could cause confusion. Maybe the had bigger plans for their "Innovation" campaign and put them on hold to wait for this to end. I don't know, but I'm a GR native and have always felt Bell's (and Founders) are top notch breweries that haven't played dirty.
    pat61 likes this.
  10. KindaFondaGoozah

    KindaFondaGoozah Aspirant (289) Jan 1, 2013 Wisconsin

    Give Bell's a shake too. Copyright laws are very much handle it or you will use your copyright. It's been documented many times here and worth a mulligan among us all.
    LambicPentameter, JimKal and drtth like this.
  11. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Meyvn (1,016) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Good for bells for defending their imaginary trademark. And even better for Innovation for holding their own and winning. The trademark game isn't personal.
  12. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Meyvn (1,124) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    I love Bell's, but yeah, this was a dick move on their part. Like how Lagunitas sued Sierra Nevada over the Hop Hunter IPA's logo. I'm sorry, big companies, but you can't trademark simple words.
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,244) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes you can.

    E.g. Stone, Two Roads, Victory, Defiant, Nebraska, Shipyard, Sixpoint, Prarie, etc., etc., etc.
    #13 drtth, Jan 13, 2018 at 9:57 AM
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 10:05 AM
  14. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    A national level production brewery making 300K+ bbl and a local brewery making around 500 bbl are not in competition with each other. There's no confusion on the shelves between these two breweries as Innovations's beers are not on the shelves. Also, just because you use a word in a slogan does not mean that it is yours. The slogan is, but all the words aren't. And seeing as no brand name was shared between the two, Bell's is decidedly the bully in this situation. There are certainly situations where a C&D and possible litigation is necessary. This was decidedly not one of them.
    #14 EvenMoreJesus, Jan 13, 2018 at 1:42 PM
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 1:49 PM
  15. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Sure, you should definitely protect all of your trademarks very aggressively. Your real trademarks, not your imagined ones.
  16. rgordon

    rgordon Crusader (742) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I always thought this complaint was specious at best. I'm not a litigious type, but I'm fairly well versed in legal matters. Fearing Innovation seemed silly then and now.
    StartedwithSAM and EvenMoreJesus like this.
  17. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (4,561) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
    Supporter Subscriber

    When men get old and fat they worry about their prostate and their pension. When breweries get old and fat they worry about copyrghts and trademarks. These are not as much fun to worry about as the stuff you worry about when you are sixteen but when you are old and fat, these things seem very important.
    PatrickCT likes this.
  18. JimKal

    JimKal Devotee (488) Jul 31, 2011 North Carolina

    Perhaps Bell's was trying to protect their right to continue using the slogan:
    "Bell's said Innovation's name sounded too much like the bigger brewery's unregistered advertising slogan, "Bottling innovation since 1985."
    After all this was a challenge to Innovation's requested trademark. Not a big deal for me. I like Two Hearted and Oberon but I have local options that I prefer.
  19. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Not a big deal to you, but to a small brewery the outlay of cash that it takes to litigate these types of situations is no drop in the bucket. Not sure if you're aware, but attorneys are expensive.

    And, like you stated, Bell's has no official claim to "Innovation". They're just trying to bully a small brewery by contesting their TM request, hoping that they'll change their name because the battle might prove too expensive to fight. That's a dick move from one of the biggest assholes in craft brewing, Larry Bell.

    Bell's is proof positive that people who are less than good people can make very good beer.
    abb610 likes this.
  20. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,244) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    FYI, the fact that is is unregistered does not mean their is no official claim. Trademarks may also result, under Common Law, from prior usage even though not "offically" registered.
    LambicPentameter and JimKal like this.
  21. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    But, again, Bell's never used "Innovation", officially or unofficially, as a means of brand recognition. They used a slogan that contained the word innovation, which is very different.
  22. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,244) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Be that as it may, the fact it wasn't registered is irrelevant.
    eldoctorador likes this.
  23. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    But certainly much less relevant than if it was.
  24. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,244) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Not to the legal folks. Prior Usage can make a difference.
    Tripel_Threat and PatrickCT like this.
  25. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (519) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Good. Glad it worked out for Innovation.
    craigo19 likes this.
  26. abb610

    abb610 Disciple (323) Oct 14, 2010 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    It was senseless for bell's to try and tell Innovation Brewing that they couldn't trademark that name for themselves, senseless.
  27. abb610

    abb610 Disciple (323) Oct 14, 2010 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    The fact that they expanded into the comparison/contrast of the words Inspired and Innovation just proves further how insane and wrong bell's was by bullying this brewery.
  28. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Here's the difference. When you are thinking about naming your business or one of the brands your business will have, you are expected to do a certain amount of due diligence. Going through every single unregistered slogan that other companies have used is above and beyond that due diligence, IMO.

    Trademarks are about good will. You don't want someone else taking the good will that you've worked very hard to earn. In a great deal of these disputes, there is no good will being taken as no reasonable person would confuse the two entities. This dispute is a prime example of that.
  29. zid

    zid Champion (864) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    The return of agitated trademark threads is proof that AB InBev has slowed down it's brewery purchasing. :wink:
  30. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,244) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    All perfectly valid, but that doesn't change the point(s) I was making.

    Unregistered isn't relevant and a Trademark can be acquired by prior usage.

    The critical point, as made in the ruling in favor of Innovation Brewing is that Bell's had not used the slogan as part of the identification of a particular product and has nothing to do with it being unregistered or that there was or was not prior usage. It had to do with the nature of the prior usage not being sufficient to create Brand Identity.

    I'll be curious to see what happens if, and when, Innovation Brewing in NC discovers there is an Innovation Brew Works in CA.
  31. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Probably nothing, as they're both very small concerns on the opposite sides of the country.

    DISKORD Initiate (105) Feb 28, 2017 South Carolina

    @LarryBell should be embarrassed. This is absolutely ridiculous!
    JackHorzempa and abb610 like this.
  33. MikeP64

    MikeP64 Aspirant (213) Jan 24, 2015 South Carolina

    I love Bells but I agree not cool..If I were Innovation the first beer I released after the lawsuit would be called 'Bellringer' or 'To Hell with Bells'...sue me now.
  34. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Zealot (522) Dec 12, 2014 California

    ....that's a bit too much
  35. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (292) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico
    Beer Trader

    I love bells but this is crap. It was unregistered to begin with and vaguely on any sort of advertising.

    How many breweries do you know that have secondary slogans or sayings? I get inspired brewing being on packaging and if a brewery by that name tried to open, a lawsuit there makes sense.

    This doesn't and the fact that it took nearly two years to go through the process is frightening. That's hundreds of thousands spent. Little guys stand almost no chance.
  36. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I was actually holding back. A lot.

    Also, nice Cannibal Corpse avatar, dude.
    eldoctorador likes this.
  37. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    However, since the burden of proof lies with the contesting entity, an unregistered slogan is much more difficult to prove than would be a registered one. Especially in cases like this where it wasn't the slogan of Innovation Brewing that was in question. It was their name, which Bell's does not have the rights to.

    Exactly. Now can we stop building straw men and just agree that Bell's was in the wrong here?
  38. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Zealot (513) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

  39. waltari

    waltari Initiate (116) Jan 28, 2016 Georgia

    I wish I still had that vinyl. Still own it on CD though.
    eldoctorador and EvenMoreJesus like this.
  40. craigo19

    craigo19 Disciple (332) Oct 12, 2009 Michigan
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Or laugh about it while enjoying a pint together.
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