Trademark disputes are often petty, heated, and vitriolic. We know this. Interestingly, it often seems as though the temperature level for trademark disputes is inversely proportional to how valid they are: the pettiest disputes are often the most heated. And we cover enough of those sorts of things that it can often seem like no companies out there approach a trademark issue in any other way.
But that isn’t the case and it’s probably useful to highlight when companies get this right. Enter Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, makers of a beer it has named “Abominable.” Another brewery, Fremont Brewing Company, has produced a very popular seasonal brew for some time that it has entitled “Abominable Winter Ale.” In other words, there is an actual potential trademark issue here, with a naming convention and vernacular unique enough to quite possibly result in some confusion. So Hopworks set its lawyers to work, right?
Don’t get your barley in a bunch; Fremont Brewing says it was a friendly conversation and not an acrimonious kerfuffle. In a Twitter statement, Fremont Brewing said:
“Our friends at @HopworksBeer trademarked the name before us and we worked out a friendly transition. Now, we have to brew a beer together:)”
Collaboration, not litigation!
In other words, Hopworks contacted Fremont to let them know of the issue, behaved like human beings, and everything has now been worked out. All without the cost of billable hours and court fees, too. It’s almost like there can be a common sense approach to these types of trademark issues, one that doesn’t require lawsuits.
The craft beer industry in particular should be both particularly conducive to this sort of friendly interaction and particularly in need of it. It’s been noticed for some time that the industry’s explosion has poised it for an explosion in trademark disputes. Unless, that is, the typically friendly breweries take their cues from Hopworks and Fremont on how to settle them.