Building Beer Brands: Trademark Disputes and Resolutions

Bent Brewstillery Dark Fatha American Emperial Stout // Courtesy of Bent Brewstillery

Bent Brewstillery Dark Fatha American Emperial Stout // Courtesy of Bent Brewstillery

Empyrean Brewing Dark Side Vanilla Porter // Courtesy of Empyrean Brewing

Empyrean Brewing Dark Side Vanilla Porter // Courtesy of Empyrean Brewing

However, Bent Brewstillery did run into a copyright issue with one of its launch beers. “For five or six years, I called my stout Dark Side,” said Blume. “The day before I was printing labels I discovered a beer called Dark Side Vanilla Porter. Someone else trademarked it right before I was about to put it on shelves. Being that it had a Star Wars theme, I wanted to stay with that at least. So I stayed up all night watching Star Wars trying to get inspiration. When Vader said ‘Luke, I am your fatha,’ I knew that was it. So it became Dark Fatha.”

A copyright conflict may have helped Bent Brewstillery land on a unique and fun name for one of its beers, and Lino Lakes-based HammerHeart Brewing Company proves that these issues can be resolved in a manner that leaves both parties better off. Since his homebrew days, HammerHeart brewer Austin Lunn had been making a beer called Black Cascade. Upon learning that Colorado’s TRVE Brewing also had a commercially available beer called Black Cascade, Lunn called TRVE’s founder Nick Nunns and left a voicemail about the beer and the brewery, and offered to change the name of the beer if Nunns desired.

Nunns called Lunn back and wrote about their conversation in a statement on TRVE’s website.

“I managed to get Austin on the phone on Friday afternoon when walking home—a trip which takes about fifteen minutes on average,” wrote Nunns. “We began talking about our respective breweries, the state of the industry, and of course, a mutual appreciation for extreme metal. We bounced war stories back and forth about the stresses of opening breweries, compared recipe formulations, and discussed our breweries’ respective ethea. Almost an hour later I hung up the phone, having sat on the stoop of my apartment continuing the conversation well after I’d arrived at home. By the end I’d felt true kinship with a person I’d never even met in the flesh.”

According to Nunn’s blog post, he plans to fly to Minnesota to brew a collaborative beer at HammerHeart. Not only were the two breweries able to reach an agreement without any legal wrangling, but a friendship was formed and the world may get a new beer as a result. If that’s not the best possible outcome, we don’t know what is.

More recent stories about beer, breweries and intellectual property:

Rogue Ales, Rogue 24 Settle Tradement Infringement Lawsuit – BeerPulse, Dec. 2013

Citizens Brewing to change name, reports cease-and-desist letter from DC Brau – Washington Post, Dec. 2013

Czech brewer gets Budweiser trademark for Portugal – Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 2013

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Narwhal LLC locked in trademark dispute over ‘Narwhal’ name – BeerPulse, Dec. 2013

Trademarks, Beer, Vampires, Zombies… And Lawyers – TechDirt, Dec. 2013

Strange Brewing reaches settlement in year-long trademark dispute – Denver Post, Nov. 2013

Beer battle between brewers foaming to a head in Harlem – NY Daily News, Nov. 2013

Microbrewers Go From Mellow To Bitter Over Branding – Forbes, Nov. 2013

The Other ‘F Word’: Brewer Responds To Starbucks Over Beer Name – NPR, Dec. 2013

Orange Paint Means ‘No Trespassing’ – Big Sky Brew, Jan 2014


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