Skip to content

Some Brewers Got a Cease and Desist Letter! Oh Noes!!!

Craft beer evangelicals tend to gloss over certain harsh realities of the beer business. Among them is the fact that, at their heart, breweries of all sorts, including craft breweries are businesses. They market their products in ways designed to appeal to and persuade craft beer drinkers. They hire graphic designers and interior decorators to help them create an image. They trademark, copyright, and/or register their various pieces of intellectual property. And they sue one another. The faux outrage from the craft beer community every time some favorite small time brewery receives a cease-and-desist letter, the giggling glee every time a brewery renames the beer with some irreverent reference to the legal dispute, it’s all so much…ugh…the most tedious aspect of following beer news as closely as I do. There is nothing new under the sun here. I’m reminded of a friend’s (no longer updated) Tumblr.

Each of his posts follows this pattern: “I can’t believe that [sports figure][committed some outrage]. So much for trusting sports figures. Won’t fall for that again.” Like this:

I can’t believe double-amputee Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend. So much for trusting sports figures. Won’t fall for that again.

Or this:
I can’t believe Dan Marino (pictured at left) had an affair with a CBS employee (not pictured) and fathered a love child, despite being married with six children at the time. So much for trusting sports figures. Won’t fall for that again.

I no longer remember the inciting incident, but I still share his exasperation. It’s like as soon as we hear about the latest new controversy we’re supposed to forget that these sorts of controversies are regular events and they all point to certain deficiencies in the substructure that governs modern athletics. Underneath the publicity machine designed to convince us otherwise, athletes are just overly rich, entitled young men who play games for money. We shouldn’t be surprised when they act out. And the fact that they act out like this all the time should further inure us to these stories. And yet, the hand wringing continues.
And so goes it in the craft beer world where every time a stamp gets licked on a cease-and-desist letter we all have to throw our hands up that the little guys are starting to act like the big boys. The honeymoon is over. Isn’t So-and-So just a petty little miscreant poisoning the well, sullying the sense of camaraderie that unites all craft brewers together? Oh noes!!!

The only reason these things get reported and sometimes picked up by the mainstream media is because of this myth that all brewers are really, really, really nice guys; that they aren’t running businesses. They don’t care about all those silly things that overwhelm the big boys like branding, marketing, and advertising channels. They only care about making good beer. To see an example of this take this recent Forbes’ account of the tiny kerfuffle between Dogfish Head and the incipient Namaste Brewing (now renamed to Kamala Brewing).

These men, all prodigiously bearded, take genuine pride in the artisanal nature of their work. Dipak Topiwala, Whip In’s owner and the event’s host, surveyed his colleagues and assessed the collective brewer vibe thusly: “We’re all making a product that makes people happy. Why wouldn’t we be happy?” It’s a refreshing perspective.

Dogfish Head sent Namaste Brewing an email asking that the brewery rename itself (because of their beer Namaste), pay a licensing fee (which would have been weird, I think) or agree to only sell their beer on site.
Then the writer says this:

But even the mellowest of microbrewers is starting to experience the buzz kill of trademark infringement.

“Starting to”? “Starting to”?!? Gah. I don’t have the time to research when the first craft brewer sent a cease-and-desist letter to another but I distinctly remember drinking beers that had been renamed because of them…and that was at least ten years ago. I was blogging about the David vs David nature of the craft beer world two years ago myself. Trademark infringement and trademark protection are de rigeur in business. It happens every day, all the time. Sometimes you see some really ridiculous cases and those cases make interesting stories. Like when T-Mobile tried to trademark the hot pink color they use on all their signage. But the mere idea of a trademark infringement/protection battle is not itself a story. The only reason to pretend like it is, is because of this naïve myth of the brewer who has no interest in making money at brewing beer…which is, of course, nonsense.

I do agree with the writer that this kind of stuff will happen  more frequently as the craft beer world gets more crowded. But isn’t new. It isn’t interesting. And it is certainly not unexpected.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr

Posted in The Drinking Class.