(Milwaukee, WI) – Northern Brewer has now blogged about the situation with Bell’s.
[ed. note: if you missed it, Bell's Brewery's response is here.]
It is a candid post that describes how Northern Brewer felt “affronted” at first but quickly came around to support Bell’s in its action.
If anything, what happened yesterday sheds an interesting light on the homebrewing industry practice of using the names of commercial beers on products. Should permission be sought before selling these products?
I sent over a few additional questions to Northern Brewer Marketing Manager, Jake Keeler…
1) For kits that are marketed as clones of commercial beers, do you ask the brewery’s permission to sell those?
No – only for the Pro Series kits where the brewers has signed off on the recipe and we are allowed to use the actual name, logo, etc
2) Is asking permission an industry-wide practice?
I can only really speak for us, but generally, I don’t think anyone is seeking permission unless it falls into the “pro” series. It’s a wide spread practice in Homebrewing.
3) I’m guessing that permission wasn’t sought in the case of Three Hearted Ale?
Permission was not sought
4) For Pro Kits, do you license these recipes from breweries for a fee? [ed. note: Pro kits include ingredients that form the actual recipe that are provided by the brewery]
No. These are collaborative projects without exchange of a fee. Should anyone currently working with us, or anyone we partner with in the future, want to license the name/logo etc and charge a fee, then we will happily comply. But right now, we are working with friends and keeping it between a handshake.
Hopefully breweries and businesses following this story can take something away from it. As you’ve seen recently, grievances over trademark disputes are increasingly being aired out in the public eye. Those initiating the disputes are usually not viewed favorably. The letter of the law states that a business holding a trademark must defend it but the circumstances around how this is done is often what determines how the public views it (more than the action itself).