(Georgetown, WA) – As more craft breweries open, more beers are created . . . and more trademarks are filed. Uh oh.
More beery legal issues reared their ugly head to the surface today as Georgetown Brewing formally announced that it changed the name of its 9# Porter (pronounced 9 Pound Porter) to Georgetown Porter. The reason? Upon discovery of Georgetown filing a trademark for the name, Magic Hat got in touch with the brewery asking them to change the name. Per the Georgetown email courtesy of Facebook:
“This is a letter to notify you that we are renaming 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter. Georgetown Porter is the same recipe as 9LB Porter – the beer has not changed. This change is the result of a trademark dispute with Magic Hat Brewing Co. (now owners of Pyramid) over the use of the name 9LB Porter and trademark infringement issues associated with that name.
To summarize, Magic Hat’s flagship beer is called #9. Alan Newman, founder of Magic Hat, contacted us one year ago and told us that our use of the name 9LB Porter was trademark infringement and that we should not have been issued a federal trademark in the first place. His goal in contacting us was to reach some compromise and avoid litigation on both ends.
After much discussion, Alan agreed that we could keep the name but we would have to change the label and use the spelled out word “NINE” in place of the numeric “9″ so that there would be less confusion with the brands. We were ok with this and had even come up with a number of different label designs. Where we disagreed, however, is that Alan wants to own the brand name 9LB Porter and then license it back to us for no fee. He argued that this was the only way he could protect his trade name against any future trademark infringement
issues with any other brewery. The license he offered to us was free and would not limit our use of the mark (other than not being able to use the numeric “9″).
After much deliberation between Roger and me, and also after discussions with Scott Horrel, owner of the 9LB Hammer, we decided that we could not in good conscience grant someone else ownership of the name 9LB Porter. Scott said it was our decision to make, but Roger and I ultimately felt that the brand does not rightfully belong to us to sign over to some other brewery. We really feel like it belongs to the 9LB Hammer and don’t want some other brewery owning it. In all fairness to Magic Hat and Alan Newman, they did make an effort to compromise. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t agree on the name-ownership issue.
So with that… we’re changing the name of 9LB Porter. It will now be called Georgetown Porter. A new label will be introduced with the hammer and fist from the 9LB Hammer. We will phase out the old label and all of the marketing items. That is our agreement with Magic Hat.
We want to thank Scott Horrell for all of his support throughout this dispute. He’s had our back on this, so thanks to Scott. Also, thanks to all of you for being customers of Georgetown Brewing. Without you, we would have a lot of beer to drink by ourselves.
Georgetown Brewing Company”
The result is that the beer, originally named, with permission, after a local bar named the 9LB Hammer will be renamed as mentioned above. Back in January, the 9LB Hammer team sent out a not-so-politically-correct message on Facebook about the fiasco:
“Goodbye 9lb Porter…Hello Georgetown Porter…Hey all you 9lb fans…. You may notice soon that Georgetown Brewing is changing the name of their porter to “Georgetown Porter,” and for the record, the folks at the 9lb Hammer have always been stoked about the use of the name of the bar for one of Roger and Manny’s beers (it was an honor). Without going into the circumstances too deeply, let’s just say that maybe there’s this big fancy company the doesn’t want people to confuse OUR beer with THEIR beer, because maybe there’s a “9″ in the name of THEIR beer. So nobody’s hatin’ on anybody around here, as far as the local beer goes..and don’t drink Pyramid.” [Note: Pyramid is owned by Magic Hat.]
Brewers increasingly find themselves in the awkward position of following the letter of the trademark law and defending their trademarks or standing pat and letting other breweries create beers with similar names. Is Magic Hat right in defending its mark or is letting the other brewery beOn the bright side, at least the two sides didn’t go to court over it.