(Kalamazoo, MI) – Northern Brewer confirms that Bell’s Brewery has sent them a cease and desist letter.
[3/23 Update II: Here's the official response from Bell's.]
[3/23 Update: This is a story that has brought a lot of passionate responses so I'm digging a bit deeper. I hope to get more from Bell's as to how this came about if they are able to discuss it (may take a while where they are out at the Craft Brewers Conference which just started). I also have an email out to Northern Brewer to see if they typically get permission from brewers before designing/marketing kits that clone a brewery's commercial beer. Is this a homebrewing industry-wide practice or not?]
Northern Brewer posted the following message on Facebook an hour ago:
So … we just received a letter from an attorney representing one of our favorite craft breweries; this letter informed us that we need to change the name of our Three Hearted Ale kit in a hurry. We’d love to hear your suggestions!
A Northern Brewer representative later confirmed that Bell’s Brewery sent a cease and desist letter. It’s a peculiar decision because Northern Brewer hasn’t filed a trademark application for the name, “Three Hearted Ale.” [Update: The kit has been around for ten years according to NB Marketing Director Jake Keeler.] It begs the question of how a homebrewing store can effectively communicate that a brewing kit can be used to create a clone of an existing commercial beer without using the name of that beer.
Regardless of the merit of the C&D, the Facebook thread is on fire with over 100 comments over the past hour. Some suggestions include, “triple middle fingers IPA,” “Cold Hearted Ale,” and “Cease and Desist Ale.” Northern Brewer is the fourth largest beer community on the internet with
dozens tens of thousands of users. Did the lawyers poke a stick at the wrong beehive this time?
Oakshire Brewing even went so far as to create a commercially available “Three Hearted Ale” this past fall though it was a Single Batch release.
A USPTO search also shows that Bell’s requested an extension last week to oppose a trademark application for “Third Street,” an unreleased beer from Cold Spring Brewing in Minnesota. One of Bell’s longtime staples is a beer called, “Third Coast.” Perhaps the thought is that the word, “third,” as well as a location of some kind could cause confusion among consumers.
Bell’s Brewery’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.