The craft-beer industry prides itself on collaboration and congeniality, so it's always disheartening to see two small companies, especially those in Colorado, go after each other in court. But in the end, business is business.
On November 3, Epic Brewing, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, filed suit in US. District Court against Buena Vista's Eddyline Brewing, which brews and cans a beer called Epic Day Double IPA. Epic Brewing claims that Eddyline is infringing on its established trademark rights to the word "Epic" when it comes to beer.
As first reported by businessden.com, Epic is asking for a whopping $1 million in damages as well as any profits Eddyline made selling Epic Day. It would also like Eddyline to get rid of all of its Epic Day cans. The federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently rejected Eddyline's attempt to trademark the name "Epic Day," saying that it could cause confusion with Epic Brewing, which already owns the "Epic" trademark.
"Everyone has a responsibility to be clear as to ownership and origin of brands," Epic Brewing co-founder Dave Cole tells Westword. "The purpose of trademark law is to protect the consumer by making sure the source of goods is clear, and building off another company’s brand is simply not right."
When he first became aware of Eddyline’s beer a few months ago, Cole says the brewery "reached out to Eddyline to let them know about our brand and trademarks, both of which we’ve worked hard over many years to develop and register. They refused to stop using the Epic Day branding and would not even engage in meaningful discussions. At the end of the day, we had no choice but to press the issue because it became obvious that consumers thought Epic Day was an Epic Brewing product. People even came to the Epic Brewing booth at the Great American Beer Fest and asked for Epic Day IPA.
"In the past, other brewers have reached out to let us know that the name of one of our beers was too close to one of their beers, and when that was true we changed the name to respect the other brewer," he adds. "We’re asking that Eddyline do the right thing."
But Eddyline owner Mic Heynekamp disputes that version of the events. "They called our attorneys one time in early 2017 with a list of unreasonable demands — much more than asking us to stop using the word "Epic" — and said they'd follow up with a cease and desist letter. In August we received the letter and it had the monetary demands listed in the lawsuit along with a cease and desist," he says.
Heynekamp says he responded to the letter and asked for an "amicable discussion" rather than "impossible monetary demands," but that Eddyline never heard back from Epic until the suit was filed.
"Eddyline Brewery is disappointed that Epic Brewing has chosen to take the path of litigation on this issue. ... We would welcome an owner to owner discussion but when the first contact is via attorneys ... it is difficult to keep it friendly," Heynekamp added in an email to Westword. "We strongly believe that there is no, nor has there ever been, any confusion between our Epic Day beer and their brewery."
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Epic was founded in Utah in 2010 and established itself as a solid Denver presence since opening a de facto headquarters here in 2013 by building a large production facility and taproom. Eddyline opened in 2009 in Buena Vista and has since opened another location in New Zealand.
Trademark battles involving beer and brewery names are certainly nothing new in the craft-beer world, although most of the cases are resolved — often with a degree of bitterness — out of court.
For example, Strange Brewing agreed to change its name to Strange Craft in 2014 to settle a dispute with Strange Brew Beer and Winemaking in Massachusetts. In 2016, Arizona's Fate Brewing changed its name to McFate Brewing to settle a trademark battle with Boulder's Fate Brewing. Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing got into it with Oasis Brewing, out of Texas, in 2015 over the name Slow Ride, which both breweries used; Oasis largely won that fight.
In 2014, Boulder's Kettle & Stone Brewing changed its name to Vindication Brewing at the insistence of San Diego's Stone Brewing, which owns the trademarks to the word Stone when it comes to beer. Also in 2014, Denver Pearl Brewing changed its name to Platt Park Brewing in response to a request by Denver Beer Co.