We would say the very public trademark disagreement between West Sixth Brewing Co. and the executives at Magic Hat Brewing Co. was the wrong way to go about finding an amicable solution to a tough trademark situation. Back in June, the two parties turned to the internet and social media to try to bully each other and craft fans about whether or not the various iterations of West Sixth’s logo infringed on the trademark of Magic Hat’s #9 craft beer. How could things have gone differently?
Recently, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery ran into its own trademark dispute involving its Belgian-style white beer Namaste. A few months ago, a Austin, Texas, beer emporium called Whip In began brewing under the name Namaste Brewing Co., even though Dogfish Head retains a trademark on the name. How did Dogfish Head respond? Well, just read the classy and professional letter on its blog titled: “Searching for a friendly solution”:
We’ve heard a lot of chatter and gotten a few questions today about a trademark dispute involving our Belgian-style white beer Namaste. For more than five years, we’ve sold Namaste throughout the U.S. We originally brewed it to raise funds for Drie Fonteinen brewery after a disaster hit and ruined 100,000 bottles of their beer. To reflect this spirit of collaboration and respect for the brewing industry, we named the beer Namaste. What started as a fundraiser quickly became a fan favorite, and we’ve been brewing and bottling it ever since.
A few months ago, a retail account and restaurant in Austin, Texas, began brewing under the name Namaste Brewing Company. The brewery owners also run a retail store that has sold Dogfish Head, including our Namaste beer. As many of you are probably aware, there is no point in having a trademark unless we actively defend it (and if we don’t defend it this time, anyone can name a beer Namaste), and Dogfish does have a federal trademark for Namaste in the beer world, which covers both breweries and beer. Because we believe in working collaboratively with other brewers in handling these disputes, we have called and emailed Namaste Brewing in hopes of resolving the matter brewer-to-brewer. (We have not sent a cease-and-desist and have not taken any legal action, as has been reported.)
We have given them several creative solutions in an effort to alleviate any hardship they might face in making the changes, including the option to continue to sell the beer at their existing location and at festivals. Another option was to allow them ample time to phase out the name. We want to point out a quick distinction, as we’ve seen some of our fans point to Sam’s trademark troubles in the past, as seen on “Beer Wars.” Our issue in “Beer Wars” with Punkin Ale was actually quite different from the one here. Back then, the company that tried to block our trademark application for Punkin Ale was arguing that Punkin Ale was not a distinct enough name for a beer. They did not have a trademark they were trying to protect, and we did not brew a beer or open a company with a name similar to theirs. With Namaste, we have to protect the name of our beer or we lose it. That’s all we plan to say publicly about this, and we’re looking forward to a friendly solution with the folks at Whip-In.
Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head are pioneers and leaders in the American craft beer movement. When you see how respectful they handle both business and beer, you realize their professionalism should be embraced by pacesetters and dignitaries in almost any business category in America.