Port Brewing sues Moylan’s Brewery

moylans-tap lost abbey tap handle

(San Marcos, CA) – Port Brewing filed a complaint against Moylan’s in court last week.

[9/9 Update: Please see update from Lost Abbey/Port Brewing representative in the comments below.]

In the lawsuit, Port Brewing alleges that Moylan’s is infringing on its trademarks (found here and here).

According to the complaint [PDF], “Upon information and belief, Defendent [Moylan’s] recently began using a stylized cross beer tap handle within its course of business that is strikingly similar to the Port Brewing Marks.”

“Defendant is currently using a stylized cross beer tap handle, at its brewery and at other participating restaurants, bars, taverns and breweries across the nation, including within this District, featuring marks confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s stylized Port Brewing Marks. Defendant is providing this infringing beer tap to distributors and such taps are being particularly confused with Port Brewing’s protected beer taps where both companies’ beers are being served.”

“Plaintiff alleges that at all relevant times, Defendant was aware of Plaintiff’s proprietary interest in the distinctive and unique trademarks associated with Plaintiff’s various stylized Port Brewing Marks and willfully and intentionally copied Plaintiff’s

For it to get to this point, things have gotten ugly according to the North County Times:

“It’s basically about Celtic cross beer handles that I’ve been using for 15 years,” Moylan said. “First use is first use, arrogance is arrogance. That’s all I have to say.”

In a fax to the North County Times, Moylan expressed his disgust with the whole affair: “Real brewers don’t sue each other.”

Arthur said Moylan’s had traditionally used a stylized “M” on its tap handles, but added a stylized Celtic cross to its repertoire last year.

“For us it’s a very important piece of branding,” said Tomme Arthur, the brewmaster for Port Brewing, and also one of the founders and owners. “We don’t do a lot of marketing materials. Iconically, the tap handle is our focal point.”

The article indicates that Arthur first contacted Moylan in April but the sides have been unable to reach an agreement.

This is actually the second time that Moylan’s has been asked to make a change to its branding within the past year or so. When approached by another brewery about using the Kilt Lifter name on its Scotch Ale, Moylan’s chose to rename the beer in some of its Western markets. Four Peaks Brewing owns the “Kilt Lifter” trademark.

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19 thoughts on “Port Brewing sues Moylan’s Brewery

  1. This is infinitely ridiculous. I’ve still not had the opportunity to sample any of Tomme’s beers which are almost universally acclaimed, but he needs some serious help in the PR department.

    The basic Celtic cross design is used by tons of companies and has been for decades (centuries?).

    Have to side with Moylan’s here, and they should counter sue Port for using the letters O, Y, L, and A on it’s handles just to show how childish and trivial this lawsuit is.

  2. This is completely ridiculous. Where’s the Irish Clans in all of this? I think Port Brewing is being childish, the idea is definitely not unique.

  3. I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that Brendan Moylan does not need Port Brewing trademarks to sell his beer, whether it is Marin Brewing or Moylans. It is Mr. Arthur’s ego that is the real issue here.

  4. Just so we are clear, Port Brewing is not claiming ownership of the concept of a Celtic cross in conjunction with beer. It is merely ownership of it’s trademarked Lost Abbey Celtic cross tap handle *design*, which is unique, original and iconic to the Lost Abbey brand.

    Port’s only issue is with a Moylan’s Celtic cross tap handle similar in size, shape, color, and design to the Lost Abbey handle that began turning up in distribution earlier this year. Port designed the Lost Abbey Celtic cross tap handle several years ago specifically to be uniquely identifiable and respect the brand identities of other breweries, so the likeness of its handle with Moylan’s new one is of concern. Moylan’s distributes its beer in 10 of the 11 markets in which Lost Abbey does making potential confusion between the two brands highly likely.

    Port’s position is that even though the concept of the Celtic cross is in the public domain, the specific design of the Lost Abbey tap handle design is not. The design belongs to Port Brewing. As such, without permission, no one can produce a substantially similar design any more than they can go out and use the McDonald’s “Golden Arches” M design simply because the letter M is public domain.

    Port has worked since early this year to bring the issue to Moylan’s attention and resolve the issue without resorting to legal measures. Unfortunately those efforts were unfruitful and suit had to be filed in order to ensure the trademark Lost Abbey Cross design remained protected. Nonetheless, Port is still hopeful that it can be resolved quickly and in a manner mutually acceptable to both sides.

  5. To be fair, it looks like Moylan’s went from having a tap handle that looked completely different to having one that looks damned near the same as Lost Abbey’s. If I saw those two on the same bar I’d be hard pressed to tell them apart, and it’s not like they weren’t aware of Lost Abbey’s design when they changed theirs.

  6. This isn’t like the case of Monster energy drink vs Rock Art Vermonster beer; it would be near impossible to confuse those two products. In this case, due to the common market/product and striking resemblance of the taps, one could definately be confused. One could say that “craft brewers don’t sue each other,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t rip off each others ideas. Im sure that someone expecting a Moylans could be (plesantly?) surprised if they accidently ordered a Lost Abbey beer (and vice versa).

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  8. Not really…no one orders a beer by saying, “I’ll take a pint of the beer with the cross handle.” Customers order by the name of the beer, if anything. There are so many craft breweries now, we are all getting confused. Yes, it’s some form of convenience to recognize a beer by the tap handle, and I suppose it’s some form of marketing also, but in the end do we judge the beer by the handle or the taste??? +1 for ridiculous!

  9. I’m all about brewers being cool and not being dicks, but C’MON. It’s a blatant rip-off! Moylans should be ashamed to push it so far as a lawsuit. I’m sure Tomme pointed out the problem (and it IS a problem. Tap handle recognition is huge in the beer world).

    The similarities are too close, guys. Boo, Moylans.

  10. I think the whole situation is rediculous, the tap handles are only similar due to the fact they are celtic crosses. Tomme Arthur should be very embarassed for being such a prick. I work at a bar and have for years, and find it very easy to distinguish the difference between the two. Mr. Arthur is going to lose a lot of buisness.

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  15. Wishing you all the best in 2011
    Thanks for the comments.
    I can always be reached at 415-328-7043
    if anyone really wants the facts.
    I am open book!
    Brendan Moylan

  16. @James. Lots of people order beers on tap handles. I could tell you how many people order Alaskan white because of the polar bear tap handle. Or ask for “the fire hydrant” beer which we actually use to dispense water. Moylans/Marin has been using te generic square wooden handle with a sticker for awhile. Now all of a sudden, it looks grossly close to lost abbeys. I’m against suing if you don’t have to, but it looks like in this case it’s justified. Both companies can use the Celtic cross, all that needs to happen is a different design so that there is a clear difference between the 2. It could be a shorter, more square cross. The lost abbey handle is quite tall. Much taller than the average handle. If moylans would shorten their handle and focus on different colors, they would be fine. There are lots of similar trademarks around, but they need to be distinctly different.

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