Perhaps you’ve heard by now, but there’s a trademark issue brewing. KOMO News even did a story about it. I don’t want anyone to think I’m sleeping on the job, so I am reporting it here. Seattle’s Peddler Brewing Company recently received a cease and desist letter from Lost Coast Brewery of Eureka, California.
At issue, a beer called Tangerine Wheat. As many beer-savvy consumers are aware, Lost Coast Brewery has been making a beer named (and labeled) Tangerine Wheat for a long time. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that Lost Coast Brewery holds a trademark on Tangerine Wheat. Even Peddler Brewing isn’t disputing that fact.
According to reports, the folks at Peddler Brewing are taking things in stride and recognize that Lost Coast is within its rights. Lost Coast holds a trademark on Tangerine Wheat and, well, that’s why trademarks exist. Peddler now calls the beer Tangerine Hefeweizen.
Should the Patent and Trademark Office have granted a trademark for the term Tangerine Wheat? Isn’t that like trademarking Banana-Strawberry or Pale Ale? Whatever your opinion, the United States Patent and Trademark Office did indeed grant Lost Coast Brewery a trademark for the term. A few years ago, Magic Hat Brewing “suggested” that Georgetown Brewing change the name of 9 Pound Porter because it held a trademark on the number 9 as it applies to beer names. Read our story from 2010.
There are other examples. There will be more. You may think it’s stupid, but it’s the law.
So what does all this mean? Should we be outraged? Probably not. In other industries, these kinds of issues are not uncommon. Our cute little beer industry has grown up. Thankfully, there are still a lot of un-trademarked names you can give your beer.
The world is surely coming to an end, and there are many things quickening humanity’s descent into the ever-widening maelstrom of nothingness, but this is not one of them.
In my opinion, it’s pretty simple. Peddler labeled one of its beers with a trademarked name and the rightful owner of the trademark found out. Oops. End of story. If you’re opening a brewery, don’t name it Georgetown Beer Company and don’t name your flagship beer Immortals IPA. Follow this advice and you should be fine. Breweries face a lot of challenges these days that cannot be so easily avoided. Trademark disputes are avoidable and if your beer is good the name really doesn’t matter anyway.
For those wondering, the United States Patent and Trademark Office makes it very easy to conduct an online search. It’s known as TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System) and it’s free. Go give it a try. Don’t cost nothin’. Watch your tax dollars at work as TESS searches the vast database of trademarked terms.
The best thing in all of this is that the letter from Lost Coast Brewing prompted KOMO News to broadcast a story about one of Washington’s small, local, independent breweries, which is something the local mainstream media rarely does. A lot of people just heard about Peddler Brewing for the first time. Hopefully that translates into more sales of Peddler’s Tangerine Wheat. I mean, Tangerine Hefeweizen.
The law can’t stop me from calling it 9 Pound Porter or Tangerine Wheat.