Trademarks are tricky, as we’ve detailed numerous times over the years. The trickiest part is in that legal device the reasonable person. Will a reasonable consumer confuse one brand for another? Look, I know people. Their abilities to reason are suspect and not to be trusted, which is why your beer trademark searches need to include all beverage categories. Another thing about trademarks is if you don’t actively defend them, they lose their power, which is at least one reason larger brands are often hyper sensitive about anything quasi-related to their brand.
This is how we arrive at POM Wonderful and Fiji Water filing a complaint against Comrade Brewing Co. LLC for registering “Superpower” as a trademark for beer, deeming it an infringement on its juice called “Antioxidant Superpower.”
“Operating this brewery has thrown us a lot of curveballs,” explained Comrade Brewing Owner David Lin. “If I’m being completely honest, the potential confusion between antioxidant juice and craft beer was more surprising to me than the day someone crashed their truck through our front door.”
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) thought about it and shot the challenge down, rejecting the argument that the two types of beverage were closely related for trademark purposes. In past cases, the board has held that wine and spirits are closely related to beer in the minds of consumers, but it said The Wonderful Co. had failed to show that a soft drink such as fruit juice had the same kind of connection.
“Simply put, opposer has not submitted sufficient evidence that consumers are accustomed to encountering these goods under the same mark,” Judge Peter W. Cataldo wrote for a three-judge panel. “Particularly in light of the differences between the goods but also because the two marks had key differences in appearance, the board sided with Comrade Brewing.”
Comrade Brewing has been brewing its flagship Superpower IPA since it opened in 2014 and have since won silver medals at the 2014 and 2015 Great American Beer Festival for the wet-hopped versions. The Wonderful Co. uses “Antioxidant Superpower” as a slogan for its POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. It has had the phrase registered as a federal trademark for fruit juices since 2003.
“The result is what we expected and contended from the start,”Lin said. “We’re pleased with the result and appreciate the passion and efforts of our lawyers at beerattorney.com in defending this matter.”
Comrade Brewing has filed for the “Superpower” trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is currently waiting for approval. Superpower IPA is an American IPA with loads of Pacific Northwest hops that lend huge pine and grapefruit hop aroma and citrus flavors. Its bitterness is balanced with a crisp, light malt character. Superpower is on tap year-round at the Comrade Brewing tasting room.