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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > Battle over the "strange" name
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:56 PM   #151
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I disagree kombat. To me (and I'm clearly not the "decider" here, just my POV) home brew supplies and commercial beer production are two completely different things. It's not like I'm thirsty for a cold one on the way home so I swing by the LHBS and pick up 10lbs of barley and some hops. Conversely, I can't go to the brewery to get my homebrewing fix. To my mind they're different market niches.

Here's what I see: the LHBS certainly has a claim to having maintained its trademark in the homebrew supplies market space, but as far as I can tell it's never sold beer commercially, which makes it unclear to me whether or not its trademark in that space is valid. I could see a judge going either way on this, but I think it's open to interpretation. In reality, it seems pretty clear that the company didn't bother to enforce its trademark on the commercial production of beer (differentiated from the selling of homebrew supplies) until it decided (relatively recently, apparently) to enter the commercial brewing market space, at which point the LHBS was the latecomer, not the Colorado brewery.

However, that's my POV, I could easily see a judge finding that the two market spaces are essentially overlapping enough that maintaining its trademark in homebrew supplies provides protection within the commercial beer production space as well. I'm certainly no trademark lawyer or judge, so I have no expertise on that.

All that being said, I stand by my points listed above--1) the LHBS's tone in this whole thing seems pretty douchey. Yes, the C&D letter is fine as a method of undertaking the defense of their IP, but the tone of the letter (particularly the second letter, IMO) is pretty rude and unprofessional. Being "insulted" by an offer is something little kids do, not business professionals. And it's pretty clear to me from their posting on this thread that the company feels threatened by the HB community's response to the event, and is trying to do damage control. But I've got a strong distaste for propaganda, and would have seen them in a better light if they had not jumped on the discussion board to trash the other guys and insist on their innocence. Again, it's not the act itself, it's the tone of the message that comes across as douchey.
and 2), at the end of the day, the brewery is likely to just find it more cost-effective to change its name. Happens all the time, and it's actually not that big of a deal.

Just to be clear, I'm not really siding with either of these firms here. I think they both could have come up with more creative names than Strange Brew, so in that sense they're both at fault. And legally I think it could go either way. But the brewery's response to the issue is something I could see myself doing, while the LHBS's response makes them seem, true or not, like a bag full of assholes.

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Old 11-29-2012, 02:57 PM   #152
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I have been reading this thread for some time now and did a little research.

It appears that the revenue of the LHBS for last year was only $86,000. Is it really worth it to put up such a big stink and risk going bankrupt on all the legal costs for a 1 man shop that doesn't bring it that much revenue? I am sure his revenue is enough to keep him going and he may be fine with that, but IMHO, I wouldn't want to risk going up against a brewery that potentially has much more cash to throw at all the legal issues that they may face ahead.

If it was me, I would have tried to find a more amicable resolution. Especially since I only bring in $86,000 per year of revenue.

Found this information on Manta:

Strange Brew
41 Boston Post Road E
Marlborough, MA 01752-3501 map

Phone: (508) 460-5050
About:
Strange Brew in Marlborough, MA is a private company which is listed under groceries and related products, nec. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $86,000 and employs a staff of 1.

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Old 11-29-2012, 03:15 PM   #153
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Yeah, I don't think there's any way of knowing whether that $86k has any basis in fact or not, since they aren't a public company (obviously) and since none of their tax records or anything would be publicly available. Seems to me that that number might as well be pulled out of your ass.

What I did find interesting was about 26 companies with some version of "Strange Brew" in their name.

And, I'm definitely in the camp that believed "homebrew shop" <> "microbrewery". Unless the MA company was in the business of selling BEER prior to a the Colorado company, I don't see their infringement claim as legit. Ragu sells pizza sauce; that doesn't make them a pizzeria.

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Old 11-29-2012, 03:24 PM   #154
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Yeah, I don't think there's any way of knowing whether that $86k has any basis in fact or not, since they aren't a public company (obviously) and since none of their tax records or anything would be publicly available. Seems to me that that number might as well be pulled out of your ass.
Easy there Bird... No need to get hostile.

I am just pointing out the information I found online. It may be a revenue ESTIMATE, but still. Would you go through all that trouble and make it sound like you are running a multi-million dollar business and risk the legal fees?

Sounds like he "typically" serves the MA area with "dozens" of patrons outside of MAssachusetts. My ASSumption would be that this is just that, a local shop and nothing more.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:34 PM   #155
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I didn't mean it to come across as hostile, I just don't think it's meaningful information because the data that they would need to make that estimate meaningful at all isn't there. There's only so much you can do without any specifics - it's like when Zillow "values" every house in a neighborhood basically the same, without any knowledge of which places have brand-new kitchens and which places are a half-step removed from being a crack den.

The broader point, I acknowledge; for a small business, picking this fight is probably dumb since I have a hard time imagining the actual cost to the homebrew shop is meaningful and lawyers ain't cheap. I just object to putting out a revenue estimate in support of that argument that, to my mind, is worthless.

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Old 11-29-2012, 03:45 PM   #156
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Reading the letters from the lawyer, it seems like a decent request. He has the trademark for a pretty specific set of terms and the brewery is infringing on them.

You cant go open a Stone Brew supplies shop for similar reasons probably.

Yes its dickish and unnecessary, but it is the law. Also the fact that he has proof his company has been confused with the brewery by his vendors, he will win in court if he really does own the trademark.
In many ways it is necessary. Trademark dilution is an actual problem, but in this circumstance, most people won't see the problem because the companies are physically distant.

No one wants to build a brand only to have another individual utilize the same name while not necessarily promoting the same value, product, and services. One might argue that they aren't doing business in the same state, but every brewery is trying to build a brand and a name. Growth is usually inevitable, if the beer is good

The real question will be whether or not homebrew shops and breweries are doing business in the same field or not. That is to say, the relative degree that they overlap in a commercial setting.
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Old 11-29-2012, 05:19 PM   #157
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Originally Posted by jerrodm View Post
I disagree kombat. To me (and I'm clearly not the "decider" here, just my POV) home brew supplies and commercial beer production are two completely different things. It's not like I'm thirsty for a cold one on the way home so I swing by the LHBS and pick up 10lbs of barley and some hops. Conversely, I can't go to the brewery to get my homebrewing fix. To my mind they're different market niches.

Here's what I see: the LHBS certainly has a claim to having maintained its trademark in the homebrew supplies market space, but as far as I can tell it's never sold beer commercially, which makes it unclear to me whether or not its trademark in that space is valid. I could see a judge going either way on this, but I think it's open to interpretation. In reality, it seems pretty clear that the company didn't bother to enforce its trademark on the commercial production of beer (differentiated from the selling of homebrew supplies) until it decided (relatively recently, apparently) to enter the commercial brewing market space, at which point the LHBS was the latecomer, not the Colorado brewery.

However, that's my POV, I could easily see a judge finding that the two market spaces are essentially overlapping enough that maintaining its trademark in homebrew supplies provides protection within the commercial beer production space as well. I'm certainly no trademark lawyer or judge, so I have no expertise on that.

All that being said, I stand by my points listed above--1) the LHBS's tone in this whole thing seems pretty douchey. Yes, the C&D letter is fine as a method of undertaking the defense of their IP, but the tone of the letter (particularly the second letter, IMO) is pretty rude and unprofessional. Being "insulted" by an offer is something little kids do, not business professionals. And it's pretty clear to me from their posting on this thread that the company feels threatened by the HB community's response to the event, and is trying to do damage control. But I've got a strong distaste for propaganda, and would have seen them in a better light if they had not jumped on the discussion board to trash the other guys and insist on their innocence. Again, it's not the act itself, it's the tone of the message that comes across as douchey.
and 2), at the end of the day, the brewery is likely to just find it more cost-effective to change its name. Happens all the time, and it's actually not that big of a deal.

Just to be clear, I'm not really siding with either of these firms here. I think they both could have come up with more creative names than Strange Brew, so in that sense they're both at fault. And legally I think it could go either way. But the brewery's response to the issue is something I could see myself doing, while the LHBS's response makes them seem, true or not, like a bag full of assholes.
Not saying this whole case is justified or unjustified but I have heard of microbrewery/breweries that sell some homebrew supplies out of them. And on the other hand have heard of homebrew shops that sell beer (probably not stuff they brewed). So the lines do sometimes get blurred however I agree that in general people probably don't confuse the two businesses with each other.
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Old 11-29-2012, 05:23 PM   #158
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Not saying this whole case is justified or unjustified but I have heard of microbrewery/breweries that sell some homebrew supplies out of them. And on the other hand have heard of homebrew shops that sell beer (probably not stuff they brewed). So the lines do sometimes get blurred however I agree that in general people probably don't confuse the two businesses with each other.
Certainly this COULD happen, and I'm certain it does. In this case, however, there doesn't seem to be any of this kind of overlap, which is what I was pointing out. Whether that is relevant to the eventual disposition of the case is another story--as I said, I ain't no lawyer.
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Old 11-29-2012, 05:28 PM   #159
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I simply cannot believe that there is any real confusion between the homebrew shop and the microbrewery. We're talking two minuscule companies in highly fragmented industries, both of which are using a name that is not even close to unique. We're not talking about a homebrew shop opening up as "Dogfish Head Homebrew Supplies," or a microbrewery selling "MoreBeer! Pale Ale".

I mean, hell... if you can't tell the difference between "Strange Brew" selling hops and grain in Massachusetts and "Strange Brewing" selling beer out in Colorado... you've got problems. I can imagine a distributor potentially making a mistake and sending a shipment to the wrong location (if I was guessing, that's what triggered this whole thing), but something like that would be the fault of a distributor with inadequate systems.

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Old 11-29-2012, 05:32 PM   #160
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I can imagine a distributor potentially making a mistake and sending a shipment to the wrong location (if I was guessing, that's what triggered this whole thing), but something like that would be the fault of a distributor with inadequate systems.
I think that's probably exactly what happened bird. This is the reason I think many people on this thread are inclining toward support for the brewery--seems like the kind of thing that could be solved with a phone call to the supplier to straighten out their crossed wires, rather than a huffy C&D letter. Right or wrong (on legal grounds), the LHBS comes across to me as the aggressor here, while the brewery seems to be trying to de-escalate.

As I said before, the legality of the issue is a matter which I'm not qualified to judge, but the optics of it don't look great for the LHBS.
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