Trademark disputes -- some of them nasty -- have become commonplace in the craft-brewing industry in recent years, but most of the ones involving Colorado beer makers have been with out-of-state companies, preserving a congenial in-state camaraderie.
But the newest dispute pits two popular local breweries against one another.
On April 3, Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs sent a cease-and-desist letter to Renegade Brewing, asking the Denver company to stop using the name E3 Elevation Triple IPA and saying that use of the name was infringing on Elevation's trademark; Elevation, which opened in May 2012, obtained the trademark in late 2013.
"Carlin Walsh, Elevation's General Manager, asked me to write to you regarding Renegade Brewing Company's... use of ELEVATION in connection with beer. As you know from your recent discussions directly with Mr. Walsh, Elevation is concerned that Renegade's use of the ELEVATION mark is likely to cause confusion among consumers," reads a letter from attorney Ian Saffer to Renegade owner Brian O'Connell.
"As you know from recent discussions with Mr. Walsh, it was Elevation's strong preference to resolve this matter amicably and without involving lawyers," the letter continues. "Elevation cannot, however, allow customers to continue to be confused by Renegade's use of the ELEVATION mark."
The letter goes on to demand that Renegade stop using the word "Elevation" on its kegs, cans and other packaging, in its advertising, on its website and in other places.
But Renegade punched back, and on April 29, its attorney filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, asking the agency to cancel Elevation's rights to the name on the basis and arguing that it shouldn't have been awarded a trademark in the first place.
Renegade claims that Elevation should never have been awarded the rights to the name because it wasn't the first beer company to use it, and because Elevation obtained the trademark even though it knew there were at least five other breweries using the word.
In its petition, Renegade also claims that Elevation defrauded the federal office by claiming to be selling the beer outside of Colorado even though it wasn't.
"We opened a year prior to Elevation and used the term ten months before they ever existed. We have a state trademark on it," says Brian O'Connell. "We had no desire to argue over it. We tried our best to resolve this peacefully with them and figure out how to use the name. This isn't the road we want to go down.
"We don't want to argue with fellow brewers, especially fellow Colorado brewers. But they continued to reject our proposals and to threaten us. We were backed into a corner and we talked to an attorney and now we firmly believe that they committed fraud in filing for a trademark. And it upset us that they tried to take away a name that we used first and that they did it through fraud. Them coming after us serves no purpose."
Elevation co-owner Carlin Walsh says he considers the issue to be a private matter between the two breweries and declined to comment further.
Both breweries have garnered loyal followings and excellent reputations among beer drinkers since they opened -- Renegade in 2011 and Elevation in 2012 -- winning several awards and enjoying rapid expansion and success.
Renegade, which also owns the Renegade Publik House near the University of Denver, recently announced that it will build a large production facility at First Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. The brewery cans and bottles at least five different beers.
Elevation has undergone several expansions, both of its brewery and its beer lineup in recent months, and announced in January that it would begin distribution in Texas.
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