Oh sure, BC’s craft beer community is swimming in glad tidings and brotherly love – but it’s not all hugs and kisses! No, this is still an industry, which means business.
And with business comes legal squabbles and disputes. Cease and desist notices! Lawsuits! Anger! Here are some of the most memorable legal squabbles to emerge from BC’s beer industry so far.
Molson Coors vs Sea to Sky Brewery
Sea to Sky Brewery is – or was – a 15-barrel brewing company in Whistler that planned to open in March by Kevin Winters (formerly of Missions Springs Brewing Co.). That was, until Molson Coors’ lawyers sent the new brewery a letter stating that they (Molson Coors) had applied to register a mark on the name “Sea to Sky.”
It turns out that last year, Winters and Co. did a trademark search for Sea to Sky, which came back clean. While in the process of opening the brewery, Molson Coors filed for the trademark. Neither party was aware of the other’s intentions. Molson Coors doesn’t currently hold the mark, but Winters has decided to change the brewery name anyway, but at the time of publication it was still nameless.
Sleeman vs Red Arrow
Sleeman sent a Cease and Desist to Duncan’s Red Arrow, claiming that the latter’s brewery logo was too similar to that of the Sleeman-owned Old Milwaukee – in particular, the use of lines around the border. Red Arrow made a modest change to the logo, rounding out the bottom edges and changing the offending lines, to which Sleeman agreed.
Incidentally, Red Arrow’s founders originally planned to name the brewery Arrow Brewing, but changed it to Red Arrow after the owners of Invermere’s Arrowhead Brewing called and politely asked them to reconsider.
Okanagan Crush Pad vs Lighthouse
Lighthouse was forced to change the name of its Switchback IPA after Okanagan Crush Pad, a BC winery, called attention to their mark on the title “Switchback,” which is the name of their Switchback Organic Vineyard in Summerland. Lighthouse changed the name to Shipwreck IPA.
Middle-Earth Enterprises vs Parallel 49
P49 changed the name of their IPA after JRR Tolkien’s estate, Middle-Earth Enterprises, filed a cease-and-desist over P49’s use of the title “Lord of the Hops.” P49 might have been able to keep selling Lord of the Hops, since the name and label – featuring an ominous blue-haired wizard – was vague enough to not overtly reference Lord of the Rings. It was the beer’s tagline, “One beer to rule them all,” that gave it away. P49 complied and launched Filthy Dirty instead.
Parallel 49 vs Three Ranges Brewing
Last year, Valemount’s Three Ranges Brewing was forced to change the name of its pale ale, Mile 49, after Parallel 49 issued a cease-and-desist. Owner Michael Lewis considered fighting it, as Mile 49 was a geographical location near Valemount, referring to the 49th mile railroad marker from the Alberta going West.
He eventually decided fighting would be far too costly and changed the beer’s name to DeRailed Pale Ale. The beer’s label reads, “Just as you’re picking up steam, a piece of paper can fly in the door and knock the track out from under you.”
Red Truck vs. Phillips
Ah, the legendary squabble. In 2007, Red Truck Brewing took Phillips Brewing to court, claiming that Phillips’ Blue Truck Ale’s name was too similar to Red Truck’s name. Red Truck won, forcing Phillips to change their name to Blue Buck, which helped launch Phillips into the stratosphere of BC beer (they’re easily the biggest craft brewery in the province right now).
Labatt vs. Phillips
But Blue Buck’s troubles haven’t ended there. In 2012, Labatt opposed Phillips’ registration of the trademark for Blue Buck, filed through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Opposition proceedings deal with instances where a company opposes another company’s attempt to register a trademark. The proceedings are still ongoing and have not gone to court.
Findings for this case weren’t immediately available but it’s not difficult to infer why Labatt, a brewery that produces and sells a product called “Blue,” might oppose the registration of Phillips’ trademark of a product called “Blue Buck.”
Sleeman vs Dead Frog
In 2008, Sleeman (yes, them again) sued Dead Frog over the latter’s use of clear bottles for its packaged product – specifically Dead Frog’s use of embossed clear bottles, which, according to Sleeman’s lawyers, were too similar to the bottles Sleeman used. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
Beachcomber Brewery vs Vancouver Island Brewery
In 2013, Vancouver restaurateur Mark Brand was planning to open his new Sunshine Coast brewery as Beachcomber Brewery. He sent letters to the folks at Vancouver Island Brewery, who had been selling beer called Beachcomber Summer Ale, asking them to change the beer’s name.
VIB didn’t have a trademark on Beachcomber, but had earned sufficient goodwill after three years on the market. Brand eventually stopped pursuing VIB and renamed the brewery to Persephone.
Bear Republic vs Central City
In 2010, Bear Republic filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement of two brands – Racer 5 IPA and Red Rocket Ale – after Central City began marketing Red Racer in the US. Bear Republic won after a two-year legal battle, forcing Central City to change Red Racer to Red Betty in American markets.
Steamworks vs EVERYONE
Ah, this old chestnut. In 2012, Steamworks owner Eli Gershkovitch used his trademark of the term Cascadia to stop BC breweries from selling beers called Cascadian Dark Ale. Steamworks had previously brewed a Cascadia Cream Ale, but at the time this was going down, it was no longer brewed (though it was promptly rushed into production after news of this was published).
Gershkovitch called breweries directly and said he was willing to send out Demand Letters if the breweries did not cease use of the name. Given the costs of going to court – a recurring theme here – these breweries backed down, and started calling these beers Black IPAs (or simply CDAs) instead. Eventually, Steamworks agreed to license the term for $1.
–With files from Darryl Green and Barley Mowat.
– See more at: http://www.westender.com/eat-drink/the-growler/bc-breweries-battle-it-out-in-court-1.2159386#sthash.CeO1szTG.dpuf