Trademark Troubles Plague New Belgium, Zephyr and Zwei Bruder Breweries

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Trademark battles between craft breweries are no longer new, but they can have lasting effects on the companies involved. At the moment, at least three Colorado breweries are currently involved in new trademark disputes.

The most recent is Zephyr Brewing in Denver, which is facing a trademark challenge from Rising Tide Brewing in Portland, Maine, which makes Zephyr IPA and claims to have been doing so since 2012.

“A small brewery in Maine has a particular beer that they call Zephyr,” Zephyr Brewing co-owner Brian Wood says in an email. “We have been working with them to negotiate a co-existence agreement, but so far no luck. I'm not sure I can offer much more information at this time because the negotiation and legal proceedings are ongoing.”

In late February, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that Zwei Brüder Brewing, which opened there last August, plans to change its name to Zwei Brewing to avoid a legal battle with Two Brothers Brewing in Illinois.

Zwei Bruder is German for “two brothers, so “their dispute involves a deeper level of U.S. trademark law — the doctrine of foreign equivalents — which prevents the same name from being used in the same trademark category, even in two different languages,” the paper wrote.

The decision to change their name was cheaper than doing battle in court, owners Kirk and Eric Lombardi told the Coloradoan.

And finally, New Belgium Brewing recently sued Austin's Oasis Brewing over the name Slow Ride after Oasis sent a cease-and-desist order to the nation's third largest craft brewery, demanding that it stop using the name.

New Belgium released a lower-alcohol IPA by that name – and filed for a trademark — at the beginning of the year with a major marketing push. Oasis also makes a beer called Slow Ride and although it doesn't have a trademark, the brewery believes it was using the name first.

To handle inquiries about the case, New Belgium posted the a variety of information on its web site, along with links to the legal documents. You can read some of this information below.

"Prior to releasing our newest year round beer, Slow Ride Session IPA, New Belgium Brewing conducted an exhaustive trademark search to ensure that the name was available. We then filed to register the trademark in May 2014, which was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office without opposition," the brewery says.

"We later learned that Oasis Texas Brewing Company in Austin, Texas, was producing a beer by the same name. We proactively reached out to Oasis, suggesting a number of possible solutions that would allow both brands to exist in the market, but Oasis was not open to working with New Belgium toward a productive solution.

"Five months after we filed to register the Slow Ride name, Oasis filed for trademark. While we would have preferred to resolve this amicably with Oasis, they are unwilling to work with us and have threatened New Belgium with a lawsuit, thereby compelling us to seek clarification from the court.

"At this time we are only seeking geographical clarification as to our secured trademark. To avoid further conflict, we will release “Slow Ride Session IPA” as “New Belgium Session IPA” in Texas until this issue is resolved."

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