Another trademark infringement issue: Odin Brewing Company

If you have ever visited one of the many McMenamins locations you likely know that the company brews a beer called Ruby Ale. To be fair, McMenamins began brewing it many years ago and apparently went to the trouble of getting a trademark on the term Ruby Ale. Good on them, I suppose.

Like many beers I’ve sampled from McMenamins, Ruby Ale is okay. It is exceedingly acceptable. Although it might fail to be extraordinary, it also fails to be offensive or disgusting. It is light and refreshing, seasoned with raspberries and noticeably red in color. In the end, it is a beer about which I struggle to say anything bad. I digress.

Seattle’s Odin Brewing Company was recently advised of a trademark infringement issue. The beer previously known as Odin’s Gift Ruby Ale will now be called something else. I vote for Odin’s Gift Deep Red Jewel-Like Gem of an Ale.

I think Odin should wear this like a badge of honor. When someone has to tell you to shut up, you know they are listening.

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a hopelessly heart-strung teenaged girl mused, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Juliet had a point. The beer will taste as good no matter what it is called. Dan Lee, owner of Odin Brewing, told me that the brewery is considering running a contest on the Odin Brewing Company’s Facebook page to determine a new name. One way or another, they will come up with a new name and move on.

As long as we’re going to be talking about beer, it seems we’ll be talking about these kinds of trademark issues. We should not be surprised. Get upset if you like, or just accept it as part of the business. It is what it is. See our previous post about Washington breweries and trademark issues.

Here’s the statement from Odin Brewing Company’s Facebook page:

We were contacted this week by the management of McMenamin’s Corp. (Portland, OR) that they have a U.S. trademark on the term, “Ruby Ale.” Therefore, we are in the unfortunate position of taking the words “Ruby Ale,” off all of our assets from this day forward. This does not affect the availability of the beer itself. We will continue to produce and distribute Odin’s Gift and we thank you in advance for all of your support. Stay tuned for more info.


  1. They better go after McNeill in Vermont, Duchy that makes Ushers Ruby Ale, Hobgoblin Ruby Ale, Pike Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale, Ruby Mountain Brewing Company, etc. Because they are all using the word Ruby and are in the beer industry.

    Trademarks like this should never be granted. It’s akin to trademarking Red Ale. However I was unable to find a Trademark for Ruby Ale or Ruby registered to McMenamins on TESS, nothing seems to be filed with the USPTO.

  2. Really McMenamins? This is the kind of jackass crap we’d expect from AB-Inbev and the other macro brewers of the “evil empire.”

    Where’s the noteworthy cooperation and tolerance that’s a staple of the craft beer community?

  3. Trademarks like that are a blessing and a curse. One one hand you are protecting your (presumably valuable) brand identity. But on the other, well, due to the vague ‘how close is too close?’ nature of IP law and the ‘use it or lose it’ nature of trademarks in particular, you have to protect the mark or risk dilution. So breweries will have to keep threatening each other whether they really want to or not.

    For you brewers out there though, an occasional peek at the Federal trademark registry is a good idea: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp Sadly WA state TM searches are a little more difficult.

    Consulting with an IP attorney will certainly be expensive, but think of it as insurance against this sort of thing.

  4. I think the collaborative nature of the craft brewing industry overshadows the fact that it’s still a business and people have worked hard and spent a lot of money building their brand and customer base.

    I think you’re going to see more of these types of trademark actions as more new breweries open up and they start stepping on each others toes. My bet is that the breweries that aren’t run well won’t be around for the long term.

  5. I’d drink a McMenamin’s over an Odin beer these days! Their beer hasn’t tasted the same since the original brewer left.

  6. From my perspective as a consumer the quibbling over the name is of no consequence. The beer will continue to flow and Odin may even get a boost from the publicity. This is actually a testament to the increasingly competitive beer market in the region.

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