Beer Man

Strange Brewing takes action against homebrew shop that threatened lawsuit

After a long dispute with a similarly-named homebrew store in Massachusetts, Denver's Strange Brewing Company has gone on the offensive, asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the store's right to the name "Strange Brew."

Strange said in a motion filed with the agency that it was taking action because Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making, which is based in Massachusetts "does not presently have, and has not in the past ever had, the required licenses to make and/or sell finished beer to the public."

See also: - Ska Brewing battles Maryland's DuClaw over trademark for Euphoria - Photos: Strange Days beer festival at the Rackhouse Pub - Strange Brewing faces a trademark threat from a Massachusetts homebrew shop

As a result, Strange Brewing believes that Strange Brew has abandoned its rights to the name when it comes to making and selling beer. That distinction is important since Strange Brew has the trademark in two categories: beer in general and for retail beer and wine-making supplies. The Denver company isn't asking the federal agency to strip Strange Brew of its rights to the name when it comes to selling retail supplies.

The battle between the two companies began on September 26 when a lawyer for Strange Brew owner Brian Powers sent a letter to Strange Brewing demanding that owners Tim Myers and John Fletcher stop using their name because it infringed on his trademark.

"Your continued operation of...'Strange Brewing Company' is causing and is likely to continue to cause consumer confusion, deception, damage to my client's good will, brand name and reputation," the lawyer wrote. "We therefore demand that you immediately undertake steps to cease any further commercial use of the term 'Strange Brewing Company' in connection with your business establishment and that you adopt a term that is entirely dissimilar to this term in the continued operation of your business."

Myers responded with a letter offering to team up with the homebrew shop by marketing its kits in the Colorado brewery and by licensing one of its recipes to the shop -- which he believed would benefit both small businesses and avoid legal hassles. But Powers turned him down in November, calling his suggestion "offensive," and threatening to sue.

In January, other small breweries in Colorado rallied around Strange Brewing -- which opened in 2010 as one of the first in a new wave of local breweries -- holding a festival at the Rackhouse Pub designed to raise money for legal fees if they were needed.

The festival, called Strange Days, included two dozen breweries and raised more than $6,000, some of which is presumably being used for the recent Trademark Office filing.

Myers says he can't discuss the legal filing now, however, and has agreed with Powers not to talk about the issue publicly until the situation is resolved.

Two other Colorado breweries. Left Hand in Longmont and Ska Brewing in Durango, have also recently taken action in court to wrest away trademarks from other breweries that they believe aren't using them or who have threatened legal action.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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