Trademark dustups happen from time to time within the craft beer industry. Some of them get contentious, but the majority of them seem to get cleared up fairly amicably. At worst it seems one brewery wastes money in legal fees and is dragged kicking and screaming to change a name it doesn’t want to change.
As Reuters reported, Shmaltz Brewing Co. has learned to steer clear of any trademark disputes with the big, bad wine industry. Shmaltz cracked the monocles of Sutter Home Winery Inc. over its MANNAge a Trois 12 pack (Shmaltz, you see, goes for funny, Jewish-themed names, and that is a killer pun). Sutter Home says the name “confusingly similar” to Menage a Trois, which it said it trademarked in 2006 (Sutter Home, you see, really likes orgies).
But that’s a wine and the other is a 12-pack. WTF?
As silly as it may seem, this is how trademark law works. Craft breweries need to be cognizant not just of other craft beer names, but of other beverages or restaurants that could cause reasonable confusion. (We are being overly simplistic here — if you want more in-depth info on this topic, be sure to hit our archives)
Now, would a reasonable person be confused here? We are totally unreasonable people, so we aren’t to say, but Sutter Home, along with having a point and a trademark, has deep pockets. So, in a way, it doesn’t matter.
All of that is what it is, but here’s the part we find to be very unDude: The lawsuit seeks triple and punitive damages, and a name change. Geesh. Don’t screw around on Sutter Home. Anyway, a reminder that whether you are naming a beer menage a trois, or merely about to join one, make sure you are protected.