One of the things I like the most about the beer world is there is a sense of community – those who work at various breweries seem to really get along with each other and seem united against the big boys of brewing.
However, being a brewery is still a business. The people who own and work at the breweries must protect their interests and sometimes that involves lawyers.
The latest is Magic Hat Brewing Company’s lawsuit against Kentucky’s West Sixth Brewing claiming the West Sixth’s label is a violation of copyright law because the label is similar to Magic Hat’s #9.
I’m not going to comment on the actual merits of the lawsuit because I don’t know copyright law, but the backlash on social media against Magic Hat has been huge.
But, this is a growing trend in the beer world, even with breweries considered “craft” by the hardcore beer geeks who don’t consider Magic Hat craft anymore.
If you do a quick search for “cease-and-desist” on Beer Pulse (great Website by the way), you’ll see many cease-and-desist orders breweries have sent to other breweries or business claiming trademark or copyright infringement.
Rogue Ales challenged restaurant Rogue 24′s name; Sixpoint sent a cease-and-desist letter to Renegade Brewing Company to have them change the name of its beer Ryeteous because it was similar to Sixpoint’s Righteous Ale and New Holland sent one to Alpine Brewing about the name Ichabod.
More local, Strange Brew in Marlborough, a homebrew shop, sent a letter asking that Strange Brewing Company in Colorado change their name because of how similar the names were.
If you want to look for yourself, you’ll find even more.
I don’t like getting lawyers involved in things. I wish breweries and those involved in these legal wranglings could work things out between themselves without involving lawyers. I wish they all could work it out like Avery and Russian River did a few years ago when they brewed a beer with the same name and came out with a beer called Collaboration … Not Litigation.
However, if that fails, what is a brewery supposed to do? They have a brand they need to protect. If a brewer or brewery honestly believes that the copyright or trademark is being violated and something can’t be worked out, then they’re left with little choice.
Breweries need to protect themselves, too.