California’s North Coast Brewing is in a trademark battle with the son of jazz legend Thelonious Monk over the use of his father’s name and image for its Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale. This isn’t as splashy as Stone vs. MillerCoors but is perhaps more noteworthy for craft breweries out there who, like CBB editors, love using puns and references to things they like to name and brand their beers.
North Coast tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but Reuters reports that a federal judge rejected this request and now the matter will head to court. The twist here is Thelonious Monk Jr. had verbally for years agreed to allow North Coast to sell Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale in exchange for donating some profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The additional beer-themed merchandise (around 17 items) is allegedly where things got sticky.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam on Wednesday found it “more than plausible” that Thelonious Monk Jr had a right to control the commercial value of his father’s persona and prevent North Coast Brewing Co. and others from unfairly exploiting it for commercial purposes.
Without ruling on the merits, the Oakland, California-based judge also said people might be confused into thinking Monk, who oversees his father’s estate, had authorized North Coast to sell cups, hoodies, mouse pads, soap and other items that might appear associated with the musician.
“While we are disappointed that the court did not dismiss the Monk estate’s claims out of hand, we are eager to proceed to litigation to reveal the facts underlying these meritless claims,” North Coast said in a statement on Thursday.
The lawsuit seeks damages for trademark infringement, unjust enrichment and violating Monk’s right of publicity, and an injunction against any infringements.