***This post was originally published on BeerBlotter.com, a seattle beer blog to which I regularly offer commentary.***
UPDATE: Since this was originally posted on BeerBlotter.com, I was advised of a myriad of conversation on the topic. Here are a few additional links to the BeerNews.org report and the Full Pint’s interview with Moylan’s brewmaster (who produced his lawyer’s response to Port’s claims)
I was shocked to see this one yesterday; so shocked that I had to read it twice and pull the court records to believe it. Port Brewing, the business entity that sells Lost Abbey beers, has sued Moylan’s Brewing.
Port Brewing’s other business name, Lost Abbey utilizes a celtic cross symbol as its emblem. Well, Moylans Brewing (a historically irish brewer) decided to use a remarkably similar cross for their new Celts Golden Ale. You can see images of the conflicting marks by viewing this article by BeerNews.org. The two images are virtually identical.
Port’s Tomme Arthur provides, on his blog, that Port notified Moylans of concerns back in April of this year. However, after months of impasse, Port has decided to go forward with a Trademark infringement action in the US District Court for the Southern District of California. You can review the Complaint by following this link.
The gist of the suit can be found in some of the opening paragraphs:
9. Plaintiff has engaged in extensive marketing and promotion of their Celtic cross trademark and has enjoyed significant sales of their beer and merchandise, including sales of the Celtic cross beer tap handles.
10. Due to Plaintiff’s extensive use of its stylized Celtic cross image marks (collectively referred to herein as the “Port Brewing Marks”), Plaintiff has built up significant goodwill therein and its branded merchandise has been praised and recognized in the brewing industry and through various media.
11. As a result of such longstanding, substantial and continuous use, the Celtic cross- branded products have long been immediately recognized by consumers and the trade.
18. Upon information and belief, Defendant recently began using a stylized cross beer tap handle within its course of business that is strikingly similar to the Port Brewing Marks.
19. Upon information and belief, 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.
Arthur is now taking a beating from craft beer enthusiasts – a beating that probably is not warranted. Unfortunately, beer is business. Businesses work hard to develop an image and when two closely competing businesses have confusing marks, someone needs to take a step back. Apparently, Port and Moylans will let the court decide who needs to take that step.
Tomme has been pretty beat up about the response from beer fans. He put together a well-written and thought out response to the negative animus. Here is a good snippet, but please read the whole thing by clicking on this link:
Please check our FAQ’s which we compiled to address this issue. At this time, we are waiting for a response from Moylan’s Brewing Company and still are open to a resolution that neither weakens nor devalues our Lost Abbey Trademark stylized Celtic Cross Tap Handle. …. The bigger and healthier the Craft Brewing business gets, the harder it is to be unique and distinctive. Intellectual Property is something that all breweries (small and big) need to value. It’s one of the biggest assets we can own.
Lastly,filing paperwork with the Federal Courts does not mean we are obligated to sue Moylan’s Brewing LLC. I can tell you that we at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey are not giddy with excitement about this filing. When I look out my office window, I know the 12 people who work at this brewery aren’t high fiving each other about their owners decision to do this. But they understand that Intellectual Property is a big part of this brewery and the beers we sell.
…at this time, it is a solely two small passionate craft breweries who happen to disagree looking to protect their intellectual property. Ultimately, a compromise that doesn’t involve the courts may be reached. And then we can all go back to focusing on doing the things we do best.