Recently there was a bit of industry press about the trademark dispute between West Sixth Brewing in Lexington, KY and Magic Hat Brewing from Burlington, VT. The first I read of the dispute was this info on the West Sixth webpage. My original reaction was to wonder what the heck was wrong with Magic Hat. But then I read the Magic Hat response here and I felt misled by both parties.
And I have to say, when I see the two items below, I could easily think they are from the same company. I mean why not make both the 6 beer and the 9 beer? 6 and 9 go together like……. well, you know.
Whatever happened to the old days of craft beer trademark disputes? Back in 2006 when Avery and Russian River discovered they both had a beer named “Salvation” did they file lawsuits and argue their case in social media? No, they joined together and brewed “Collaboration, Not Litigation Ale”. And that spawned a whole series of industry wide collaborations that continue to this day. Just look at all the breweries around the world that Spike is brewing with.
I do have to share one story that exemplifies the comradarie that is part the craft beer industry. Back in 2008 0r 2009, I received a call from Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head. He said (I’m paraphrasing from memory) that he hated to make these phone calls but his lawyer wanted to send us a cease and desist for our use of Terrapin India Brown Ale. Dogfish Head has a trademark for Indian Brown Ale and Sam told his lawyer he would rather call us personally and just ask if we would stop using the name. We promptly agreed and changed the name to Hop Karma.
I have heard Sam say the craft beer industry is 80% asshole free. Sam, you are definitely in that 80%. And I want you to know that just this week we discovered another brewery using one of Terrapin’s trademarked names. I followed your lead by calling them and asking politely if they would stop using our name. I also told them the story of your phone call years ago and asked them to pay it forward in the future when they are having to make that call to another brewery.
Will the huge increase of new breweries (2400 now open and 600 more coming this year) and the increased competition for new and creative names (how many ways can you play on the word “hop”) lead to more lawsuits between craft breweries? What do you think?