Victory Headwaters Pale Ale

Headwaters: another startup loses name to regional brewery after failing to trademark it

Beer had been flowing from the taps of Headwaters Brewing Company in Waynesville for just a few months when the bad news arrived — a cease-and-desist letter from another brewery claiming rights to Headwaters’ name. Victory Brewing Company out of Pennsylvania makes a beer called Headwaters Pale Ale, and while Headwaters Brewery had its name first, Victory Brewing beat them to the trademark punch.

Updated with Victory co-founder’s comments.

More >> Smoky Mountain News.



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21 thoughts on “Headwaters: another startup loses name to regional brewery after failing to trademark it

  1. Not a surprise… some of these bigger regional breweries are starting to show their true colors. Good beer is out there, but we owe it to ourselves to make sure we buy it from good people.

  2. People need to remember that beer is also a business. It’s a fully-matured industry. If you are going to run a business, you have to trademark your stuff. If you don’t, or if you fail to defend the trademarks you do have, you lose your stuff. This kind of thing happens every day in every other industry on earth. Beer is no different.

  3. Pingback: Brewery Loses Its Name in Trademark Spat

  4. If you read the article, it says that Headwaters Brewing Company was using the name before Victory used it with their pale ale.

    I understand that beer is a business and you have to protect your trademarks, but I can’t imagine that drinkers would confused a specific beer with a brewery, especially when that brewery is nearly 700 miles away.

    Given that Headwaters had the name first, I think Victory should have attempted to work something out wherein the brewery didn’t have to forfeit the name.

  5. Bill Covaleski just set a few “facts” straight in the comment section. Also, Victory named their pale ale Headwaters for reasons very similar to why the new brewery chose that as their name.

  6. I guess my dreams of starting Golden Monkey Brewing Company is down the drain!

    I’ve been getting V Headwaters for over a year in Charlotte and never heard of these guys, if they’ve been around that long, why hasn’t been been flowing for more than a couple months? I’m confused. Love drinking NC beer, but Victorys pale ale is tough to beat! Better stop by Brawly’s on my way home tonight. Look forward to trying these guys beer once they have another name, but if they’re making a big fuss out of this…no thanks, they should be kicking themselves and not making victory look like the big bad wolf.

  7. Hey Wayne, fellow Charlotte resident here!

    The text said “had been,” implying Victory sent the letter a while back. Headwaters, I’m sure, had used the name before even building their brewery, much less pouring beer there.

    The reason you don’t hear about breweries like Headwaters, even though they’re just a couple hundred miles away from you, is because they’re very small and don’t even really distribute much in their area — which is all the more reason I think this business with Victory is silly.

  8. Victory Brewing basically found out there was no trademark and POACHED it because the other company hadn’t trademarked it.

    It reminds me of a case several years ago where Rattlesnake Creek Winery, in Missoula, Montana, was sued by Porteus Winery, from over in Washington State, who owned a trademark for Rattlesnake Ridge Winery. Granted, in that case Porteus owned the trademark. However, Rattlesnake Creek was named after a real geographic entity, where they were located, and were a small boutique facility, whose production was a drop in the bucket compared to Porteus.

  9. @emerald-green You may be right but the costs and timeframe associated with re-branding are probably less than a potential court battle.

  10. The silliest part of this is people thinking Victory saw this name and decided to “Poach” it for their beer…I see Headwaters dating back to January 2011 on BA, not sure where the 2012 date comes from in that article. Maybe when they launched it in NC? Or is that when they got the trademark?

    This whole country seems to be fine with bailing everyone out who doesn’t do their job properly…thats all this is. Bearwaters didn’t do their due diligence, and they admit it. Whats the point of getting a trademark? I think its ignorant to give these guys a pass because they’re a startup…who is to say they aren’t going to be successful? Is Victory supposed to pick and choose based on people’s brewhouse size? Beer is a business and I can value a company that does things properly…with a little research on this I also found out that Victory had to change the name of their black IPA Yakima Twilight (to Yakima Glory) for this very reason! I guess they learned their lesson the hard way (although not as hard as bw).

    I hope that Bearwaters reconsiders doing a collaboration, if anything it would spark a ton of sales for them…and maybe they’ll learn from Victory..those guys haven’t put out a bad beer (or at least that I’ve had). I look forward to trying Bearwaters and will always try a local beer at least once.

    Where can I find the comments that Victory’s owner made on this? I’m interested to see the other side of this silliness.

  11. Thanks for posting that link Wayne. I had looked for anything earlier. But couldn’t find it.

    However, it still overlooks the fact that Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing were able to coexist with beers that had the same name.

    And using the excuse of labeling laws as preventing two companies from using the same word? A bit of nonsense. One is a company name, and the other is a name of a product for a company that uses a totally different name.

  12. Thank you to all who have supported us on this issue. I do however want to clarify some key points. First and foremost, I want people to know that we at BearWaters are not trying portrait Victory as the “big bad wolf”. We have nothing but respect and admiration for what they have accomplished in a very competetive market. It was a gamble for us not to spend the money to Trademark Headwaters back in 2010 when we were in the construction phase of building this company. Obviously, a gamble that did not payoff. We did do a market search and at the time we took the name, it was for all intensive purposes available. We did obtain a copyright on the artwork and name. Sadly, that is where we concluded the protection effort. It was a judgement call at the time to use the 2500.00 to aquire equipment and secure other items to even get our tiny operation off the ground. BearWaters is truely a bootstrap company. Bill and I did have several good conversations regarding the name. Had we kept the name we would have been obligated to notify Victory of our intentions for all future company activity. Therefore, we elected to change the name to maintain our independence and non-restricted creativity. We appreciate the on going support of our company and we wish Victory continued success. We appreciate honest dialog on this emotional issue And would encourage our friends and customers to continue to support the spirit of the craft brewing industry. In an effort to lead by example we have placed a Victory Pils tap on our “guest tap” in our brewery tap room. We would also encourage people to show their support by helping us with our Kickstarter Public Music Stage Project. Now lets get back to enjoying some great craft beer! Cheers!
    Kevin Sandefur
    BearWaters Brewing Company

  13. Pingback: Article Review: A Solid Example of a Small Business Not Checking Thoroughly for Trademark Issues and Paying for It Later | Brannon Sowers & Cracraft

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