Bear Republic, Central City Brewing square off over Red Racer


(Cloverdale, CA) – More trademark battles . . . in this middleweight bout, Bear Republic Brewing takes on Central City Brewing over “Red Racer.”

The Boston IP blog posted the details about the Bear Republic lawsuit over the weekend. California-based Bear Republic is suing British Columbia-based Central City over alleged trademark infringement on its “RACER 5 INDIA PALE ALE and BEAR REPUBLIC RICARDO‚ÄôS RED ROCKET ALE” marks. Bear Republic takes issue with Central City’s Red Racer product line which hit cans and U.S. distribution for the first time last year. The brewery sent a cease and desist in mid-December to which Central City responded in early January, rejecting Bear Republic’s claims.

In the lawsuit, which is available in full here (pdf), Bear Republic says that at this year’s GABF, a representative was approached by two different people asking about its Red Racer beer in cans. Bear Republic also points to an article penned by Massachusetts-based beer columnist, Norman Miller, in which he repeatedly confuses the Red Racer and Red Rocket names. The article, for which Google’s cached result is still available, has since been removed. The lawsuit was filed in late January with a Massachusetts court, a state where Central City and Bear Republic products are both available.

The lawsuit also notes that it was an (unnamed) Ohio brewery owner that phoned Bear Republic, mentioning the similarities between the two breweries’ marks as well as “the similarities of words, fonts and colors” used between them, that first made the brewery aware of Central City Red Racer products.

The suit seeks, among other things, “an award of damages in the amount of Defendant’s profits.” This is where I need a legal team to look at this. Does that mean just the profits from the allegedly infringing products or all of the company’s profits?

Bear Republic has always and will continue to make award-winning beer. What this does though is shine a spotlight on Central City Brewing, a brewery I had admittedly never heard of before this incident. Central City Red Racer IPA has earned awards and critical praise from the beer rating community, and actually has a chance to make it into the top 10 American IPAs on Beer Advocate.

Central City beers are imported through Klassen Wines; they appear to be available in Maine and California (and others?) in addition to Massachusetts according to Beer Advocate’s Beer Spy feature. Infringing items are to be seized if Bear Republic wins the lawsuit so if you want to try these beers, you may want to snatch them up quickly.

[Hat tip to Sycodrummer on BA for bringing this to our attention.]

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12 thoughts on “Bear Republic, Central City Brewing square off over Red Racer

  1. Let me say first off I’m a big fan of Beer Republic, but this is bull. Now with so many craft breweries, there will be overlap in names. Red is (or at least should be) too generic to claim a trademark on.

    We at The Grey Lodge Pub didn’t sue or bitch when a place called the Grey Lounge opened up here in Philly.

  2. @Scoats: You should have bitched, since that obviously could create confusion. “Where you at?” “I’m at the Grey Lodge! Where you at?” “Liar, I’m at the Grey Lodge!” etc

    Shame on “Massachusetts-based beer columnist, Norman Miller” for writing under the influence. If he can’t keep his names/brands straight, he has no business sowing hate and discontent due to his blindness and/or insobriety.

    And shame on Bear Republic for reaching way too far in trying to compare the brands in question. Let’s see, Red Rocket has a rocket, Racer 5 just aas text…, and Red Racer has a leggy chick on a bicyle, and a big Canadian maple leaf too. Yep: I sure see now all of the confusion there (not!).

  3. Pingback: Bear Republic Sues Central City Over Red Racer « Canadian Beer News

  4. Looks like I had my last Bear Republic Beer. This is what happens when we allow some corporate office wanker a bit of power. Free press for Central City. I hope their sales skyrocket! Maybe I’ll be sued next for using the word rocket in conjunction with sky!

  5. This is a tough one, and it will interesting to see how it pans out. If the trademark was researched prior to Central Putting it out, than the job wasn’t done too well. Red Racer will have more of an issue with Red Rocket, as they’re strongly similar to one another. Racer 5 and Red Racer are not. They would have the same issue if they called it Red Runner. Runner, Rocket, Racer etc.

    The names aren’t identical or nearly identical for that matter, but they’re strong in terms of closeness. So this is no Monster, Vermonster, it’s an entirely different beast altogether. All things considered I like both breweries so I hope it works itself out.

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  10. How typically American: sue for no reason whatsoever other than (1) It’s a possibility at easy money, and (2) The doofus doing the suing can’t read, and can’t differentiate between two distinctly different labels? Was your mother the one who sued McDonald’s over getting scalded with hot coffee because she didn’t realise coffee was hot?

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