(Bodegraven, NETHERLANDS) – For whatever reason, trademark matters have come to the surface a lot recently; I can think of at least four disputes from the past month or so. There was the infamous Rock Art Brewery vs. Monster Energy battle, Moylan’s losing its Kilt Lifter name in some areas, Odell and Red Lodge squaring off, and now this. De Molen, imported by The Shelton Brothers, started sending their beer over to the States last year. One of those beers, De Molen Rasputin, has apparently struck a chord with well-known California-based North Coast Brewing.
De Molen has given us the gist of what happened right on the label: “This stout used to be called Rasputin, but the people who make Old Rasputin in California thought you were too dumb to tell the two products apart, and threatened to sue us for trademark infringement.” North Coast Brewing, of course, has one of the most widely available Imperial Stouts in the U.S. market called Old Rasputin. In response to North Coast’s communication, the beer is now aptly named De Molen Disputin in the States.
The good news here is that there more top notch beer is coming our way. On the other hand, despite all the camaraderie and collaborations we’ve seen this year, this is indicative of some of the ugliness that lives down in the trenches. These trademark matters may be routine for some breweries but still dangerous from a PR perspective. Protecting your brands is a worthwhile endeavor though you do so at your own risk as Hansen Beverage found out in the Monster Energy case.
Whereas that case seemed rather frivolous, it is difficult to argue one way or the other here. A brewery or two carrying the Rasputin name may not be a big deal at all but could be seen as diluting the value of North Coast’s beer if both are sold in the same stores. It also may open up the door for other breweries to use the Rasputin name if they don’t challenge this one. At least the breweries came to an agreement without going forward into the lengthy trademark trial and appeal process, one that is governed by an 849 page behemoth of a procedure-setting document.
Some breweries have made it that far though. Recent notables:
Still ongoing . . . the makers of Original Bartenders Hot Sex Cocktail are alleging that Foothills Sexual Chocolate infringes on its mark. Foothills Brewing has issued an official “answer” to the plaintiff (establishing its formal opinion on the alleged infringement) and that is where it stands at the moment. They also went after 638 Brewing who also makes a beer called Sexual Chocolate.
Duke University went after Duke Brewing back in June. An extension of time was granted but nothing further seems to have come from it.
In May, Shipyard Brewing alleged that the Landmar Group had infringed on its Shipyard marks. The Landmar Group owns The Shipyards, a downtown residential/commercial development in Jacksonville. Paperwork says that Landmar is involved in bankruptcy proceedings and the case has been suspended pending investigation.