Colorado loves its beer. Denver is the nation’s former microbrew capital and microbreweries throughout the state continue to thrive. Naturally, because beer business is big business, beer law became a practice area.
Manufacturing and selling alcohol is highly regulated, and microbreweries must comply with myriad state and federal alcohol regulations in addition to standard business regulations. Beyond the regulatory side of beer law, though, are intellectual property concerns. Recently, New Belgium Brewery has been involved in a publicized case about trademark rights to its Slow Ride Session IPA.
New Belgium filed for trademark protection for its Slow Ride IPA, which was granted without opposition by the USPTO. Later, it learned that Oasis Texas Brewing Co. was producing a beer named Slow Ride Pale Ale. According to New Belgium, the Fort Collins brewery offered to resolve the issue amicably in order to allow both breweries to continue to use the Slow Ride name in certain locations, but Oasis refused, instead issuing a cease and desist letter to New Belgium in which it demanded that all products bearing the Slow Ride name be destroyed and profits from Slow Ride given to Oasis. (Oasis claims New Belgium tried to “strong arm” it into accepting a joint use agreement and says that all negotiations with New Belgium have devolved into hostility.) New Belgium eventually filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, seeking exclusive use of the Slow Ride name pursuant to its trademark. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the Texas-based defendants.
The Slow Ride dispute is far from the first trademark dispute to arise from craft beer. Ohio-based Great Lakes Brewing agreed to change the name of its Alchemy IPA as a result of a trademark conflict with the Craft Beer Alliance. Innovation Brewery, a small craft brewery in North Carolina, was accused by Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery of infringing on its trademarked slogan, “bottling innovation since 1985.” Boulder-based Kettle and Stone Brewing Co. agreed to change its name after contact from California’s Stone Brewing Co. Lagunitas Brewery in California dropped its lawsuit against Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. after public outrage at its comparison of the two beer companies’ IPA logos. The list goes on and on.
Later this month, CLE will host its annual Rocky Mountain Intellectual Property Institute. The plenary session, “Innovation & Disruption: How Crafty Micro-brews are Shaking Up the Beer Industry,” features attorney Michael Drumm of Drumm Law Group, LLC and Chris Hill of Odyssey Beerworks Brewery & Taproom in Arvada. The Rocky Mountain IP Institute will also feature a beer tasting this year. To register, click the link below.