Strange Brewing is alive and kicking -- as you'll discover if you drop by the no-nonsense taproom on any afternoon or evening. But the Denver brewery lost a big part of its online presence in June because of a legal dispute with a Massachusetts homebrew shop.
"They told Facebook we were infringing on their trademark, so Facebook took down our page," says Strange Brewing co-owner Tim Myers, which is currently waging a trademark battle with Strange Brew Beer and Wine Making Supplies.
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So the next day, on June 13, Myers asked his lawyer to give the homebrew shop a taste of its own medicine -- and now both companies are operating without Facebook pages.
"It's crazy," Myers says. "Facebook says they don't mediate or get involved, which I can understand, but they also don't even ask any questions. They just shut it down. And anyone can do it, I guess.... It's a problem. As Facebook becomes more and more important to businesses, that could really screw some people up."
Facebook's website includes two pages on trademark issues, along with the following statement: "When we receive a notice of trademark infringement, where appropriate we remove or disable access to that content. We also terminate the accounts of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances."
In reality, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a long way from deciding who has the legal right to name Strange Brewing, as the case is currently being litigated.
The dispute between the two companies began last September, when a lawyer for the homebrew shop sent a letter to the brewery demanding that Myers and co-owner John Fletcher stop using the Strange Brewing name because it infringed on his trademark. Strange Brew Beer and Wine Making owns the rights to the name when it comes to both production and retail sales of beer.
After over-the-phone negotiations failed in March, Myers decided to take the offensive, asking the federal agency to cancel the homebrew shop's rights to the trademark because the company may never have actually produced a commercial beer.
Negotiations between attorneys have continued, but the latest turn of events isn't a good sign. Brian Powers, who owns Strange Brew Beer and Wine Making Supplies, didn't return an e-mail seeking comment. Myers can't comment on the negotiations while the case is still open -- but he can talk about the Facebook move.
"Up until now, it has just been back-and-forth negotiations, trying to find a middle ground, so that was pretty harsh that he decided to do that," Myers says. "It's the first time he's actually attacked my business."
Myers will continue to try to get the word out about Strange Brewing and its events on other social media platforms and with the help of friendly businesses and customers. He also plans to update his website more often.
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