Modus Hoperandi, Notorious H.O.P. and Hops of Wrath, you name it and there’s probably a craft-beer hop pun named after it.
Modus Hoperandi, Notorious H.O.P. and Hops of Wrath — you name it, there’s probably a craft-beer hop pun named after it. But the taps have begun to run dry for hoppy beer names and now breweries are lawyering up to protect their witty, pun-inspired name creations.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, a search through recent trademark contests found multiple breweries taking action against others over tiny brand details. For instance, Maine’s 'Wash Ashore' Beer Co. has taken issue with another brewery’s application for a 'Washed Ashore' beer; there's also a problem over similar-looking yeti images between Denver's Great Divide and The Red Yeti brewpub in Indiana — and 'The Shed' Brewery in Vermont is contesting a competitor’s 'Brew Shed' beer.
Battles are also being waged over anchors and narwhals, kilts and yoga terms, and ownership of the word “idiot.”
In the case of Great Divide’s Yeti logo, taking one look at the logos in question and it's apparent, it doesn’t take a law degree to see the extreme similarities.
In an industry that now has around 4,600 breweries in operation and is expanding at the rate of two per day, according to Brewers Association data, it’s not surprising breweries would eventually step on each other’s toes when it comes to names and branding.
“Brand names in many ways are the most important thing that any company has,” said Eric Ottaway, chief executive of Brooklyn Brewery in the Wall Street Journal. “There are only so many different ways to make IPAs.”
Even Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure, is getting in on the litigious party as it’s parent company Sazerac Co. recently filed opposition against Martha’s Vineyard-based Bad Martha Brewing Co.’s attempt to trademark a “Fireball Beer,” leading the brewery to back down.
While some lucky bastards settle outside of court and avoid the hassle of the litigation, others face a long and expensive road of legal battles which often forces smaller breweries to hit a financial pain-threshold and succumb to the fight.
This was the case when Ottaway’s Brooklyn Brewery in New York sued Black Ops Brewery — a niche brewery in California — alleging its name violated the trademark it had for a seasonal $30 bottle of Imperial Stout called Brooklyn Black Ops. After three months of a legal shitstorm, the California brewery eventually changed its name to Tactical Ops Brewery.
“They probably spent four to five times what our company is worth in legal fees,” said Tactical Ops co-founder Justin Champagne.
Welcome to business.
The U.S. patents and trademark office has seen at least 25,000 active registrations and applications related to beer. This makes the patent and trademark business such a very lucrative opportunity that even attorneys are suing each other over copyright infringements regarding who can legally be a “Craft Beer Attorney.” When attorneys start suing other attorney for a piece of the pie, things aren't in good shape. Luckily for us consumers, the beers will continue to flow like the salmon of Capastrano.