Add Renegade Brewing to the list of Colorado breweries who have had to change the name of one of their beers in response to a legal threat from another beer maker. (This story has been updated below.)
The company's flagship brew, Ryeteous Rye IPA, is now called -- wait for it -- Redacted Rye India Pale Ale, and a line has been drawn on the label through its previous name.
See also: - Renegade Brewing will can two more of its beers - Strange Brewing faces a trademark threat from a Massachusetts homebrew shop - Left Hand Brewing wages a trademark battle for the word "Nitro"
Last fall, Renegade, which cans Ryeteous, got a call from Shane Welch, the president of Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, asking him to change the beer's name. Sixpoint, which also cans its beers, makes a similar rye-based beer called Righteous Ale.
"My proposal was that we are not in the same market and we are not going to be in the same market, probably, and our packaging is extremely different," says Renegade founder Brian O'Connell. "I said why don't we follow in the footsteps of Avery Brewing and Russian River and do a collaboration beer? But they weren't big on that, unfortunately. So that was followed up by a cease-and-desist letter from their attorney."
Avery and Russian River famously worked together on a beer called Collaboration Not Litigation when they discovered that they both brewed beers called Salvation.
Renegade, founded in 2011, currently only distributes in Colorado; Sixpoint, meanwhile, was founded in 2004 and distributes in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and several other East Coast and Midwest states.
Welch, however, says he thought that the two breweries had come to a mutually acceptable understanding over the course of a couple of phone calls. "We even said he could continue to use the mark until he ran out of packing material because we didn't want him to have any financial penalty for that," Welch says.
"The analogy that he was using with Russian River and Avery was different. If you look at the facts in that case, those were beers that had not been used and distributed as an existing brand," Welch adds. "In our case, we had been making this beer since 2005, and we own the federal trademark to it. If we had just produced it last year, it would be different. But we have been making that beer from day one."
But O'Connell believes that Avery and Russian River set a great example for the industry. "We got into this industry because of that kind of camaraderie and the social atmosphere. We tried to preserve it in this situation, but it didn't work out," he says. "It's frustrating, and it's disappointing to see this happening more and more.
"We chose to step aside and change the name instead of getting into an argument with another brewery and go through a legal battle," he adds. (See O'Connell's full press release with his additional thoughts on the next page.)
O'Connell wants to make a statement about how he feels, which is why he changed the name of the beer to Redacted.
"We were forced to change it. We didn't do it freely, and we aren't happy about it," he says. "But this is the situation that exists. I hope that makes a statement to the industry of what we think about it."
Several other Colorado breweries, including Oskar Blues, Dry Dock and River North have changed the names of their beers because of legal threats.
O'Connell says he will keep printing Ryeteous cans until he runs out in April. Then he will switch to labels with the new names.
Ryeteous, the flagship brew of Renegade Brewing Company, will soon be getting a new name. Renegade was served with a cease and desist letter from an attorney representing Sixpoint Brewery out of Brooklyn, New York. Sixpoint produces a beer called Righteous and the company felt that although they don't distribute in Colorado, or anywhere near Colorado, that they should stake their claim on the name Righteous and all sound-alike versions of the name.
Renegade's founder and president Brian O'Connell, proposed that Renegade and Sixpoint make Righteous Ryeteous, a collaboration brew that would be an example of brotherhood in the industry and follow the example set by Avery Brewing and Russian River. Sixpoint made it clear that they were not open to such an idea.
From Renegade president, Brian O'Connell:
We at Renegade are saddened to see the rising number of disputes in the brewing industry. Renegade is proud to be a member of an industry that has a strong collaborative component and we will do our part when possible to preserve it.
Of course a company has a right to protect its trademarks, but we believe that a cease and desist letter should only be used in the case of honest trademark infringement that causes legitimate confusion for the consumer in the market place. When Renegade set out to change the name of Ryeteous, we wanted to make a statement about our perspective on cease and desist letters. Renegade stands for doing things differently, plain and simple, and the craft brewing industry does things differently. When Avery Brewing and Russian River discovered that they both had a beer named Salvation, rather than sue each other for the naming rights, they decided to blend their beers into a new beer called Collaboration Not Litigation. That is the industry that Renegade joined and that is the industry we wish to preserve. Can you imagine Chevy and Ford reaching an agreement like that? Or Anheuser Busch and Coors? No, it wouldn't happen between any other companies other than craft beer companies.
Therefore, the new name we chose for our beer is Redacted. It represents that there was something there before that no longer is, that our original name was silenced by a legal move. Although the name will change, the beer inside the cans will not. No recipe changes will take place. We look forward to continuing to bring our popular Rye IPA to the people of Colorado and to working in the greatest industry in existence.
Redacted is expected to start hitting shelves in April 2013. Until then the beer will continue to be distributed under the current Ryeteous label.
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