Why Georgetown Brewing changed the name of 9LB Porter

As has been reported on other blogs, Georgetown Brewing recently changed the name of its Porter from 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter. To say that some big, bad brewery from the east coast came in and threw it’s weight around is an oversimplification. Here is a letter from Manny Chao explaining the situation.

Dear Georgetown Customer,

This is a letter to notify you that we are renaming 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter. Georgetown Porter is the same recipe as 9LB Porter – the beer has not changed. This change is the result of a trademark dispute with Magic Hat Brewing Co. (now owners of Pyramid) over the use of the name 9LB Porter and trademark infringement issues associated with that name.

To summarize, Magic Hat’s flagship beer is called #9. Alan Newman, founder of Magic Hat, contacted us one year ago and told us that our use of the name 9LB Porter was trademark infringement and that we should not have been issued a federal trademark in the first place. His goal in contacting us was to reach some compromise and avoid litigation on both ends.

After much discussion, Alan agreed that we could keep the name but we would have to change the label and use the spelled out word “NINE” in place of the numeric “9” so that there would be less confusion with the brands. We were ok with this and had even come up with a number of different label designs. Where we disagreed, however, is that Alan wants to own the brand name 9LB Porter and then license it back to us for no fee. He argued that this was the only way he could protect his trade name against any future trademark infringement issues with any other brewery. The license he offered to us was free and would not limit our use of the mark (other than not being able to use the numeric “9”).

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After much deliberation between Roger and me, and also after discussions with Scott Horrel, owner of the 9LB Hammer, we decided that we could not in good conscience grant someone else ownership of the name 9LB Porter. Scott said it was our decision to make, but Roger and I ultimately felt that the brand does not rightfully belong to us to sign over to some other brewery. We really feel like it belongs to the 9LB Hammer and don’t want some other brewery owning it. In all fairness to Magic Hat and Alan Newman, they did make an effort to compromise. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t agree on the name-ownership issue.

So with that… we’re changing the name of 9LB Porter. It will now be called Georgetown Porter. A new label will be introduced with the hammer and fist from the 9LB Hammer. We will phase out the old label and all of the marketing items. That is our agreement with Magic Hat.

We want to thank Scott Horrell for all of his support throughout this dispute. He’s had our back on this, so thanks to Scott. Also, thanks to all of you for being customers of Georgetown Brewing. Without you, we would have a lot of beer to drink by ourselves.

Sincerely,
Manny Chao
Georgetown Brewing Company



8 comments

  1. It sounds like everything was handled well with minimal bullying, which is great. However I’m still riled up about it and will probably leave Pyramid brews alone for a while.

  2. That will probably be the end of Pyramid for me as well. They just seem too caught up in taking on the “big boys” rather than celebrating beer.

  3. #9 ‘does not equal’ 9LB Porter. Bye bye, Pyramid. Get over yourself and I’ll start drinking your beer again.

    Until then, I’m all Georgetown, Schooner Exact, Big Al’s, etc.

  4. Ugh, that’s the trouble with trademark litigation. I think Georgetown had decent defense against Magic Hat’s BS claim, but as so often happens the cost of litigation makes fighting it a pyrrhic victory at best. And to think, I used to like Magic Hat.

  5. This is such an insult to craft beer drinkers… Does Magic Hat really think that we are so stupid that we can’t tell the difference between these beers? #9 is a crazy-good, fringy pale ale… 9LB Hammer is a porter for crying out loud. And I’m pretty sure none of us are confused by the names. I emailed Magic Hat and Pyramid, and will not buy another drop of either one, I’m just that stupid.

  6. Hey…Georgetown University called and said you can’t call it Georgetown Porter because someone may mistake this beer for the institution of higher learning. Seems pretty petty to me, but who has the money to pay lawyers to fight this. I’m from the East Coast, never had this beer, and grew up in VT ( Magic Hat’s home state ), and I’m more than a little disappointed in them. I think everyone should still order it as 9lb porter. I still call the Patriots stadium Foxboro Stadium no matter who pays a ton a money to stick their name on it.

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