With the proliferation of craft breweries in New York, and across the country, over the last decade, no one should be surprised by the recent dispute between two such breweries over their product names and trademarks. The case is unusual because the alleged trademark infringement involves several product names and product labels, rather than the usual one-to-one claim of infringement.

The lawsuit was commenced by Shipyard Brewing Co., located in Portland, Oregon, against Logboat Brewing Co. located in Columbia, Missouri. Shipyard alleges that one of Logboat’s products, Shiphead beer, infringes on its intellectual property because Shiphead’s trademark and product name are deceptively similar to Shipyard’s products. Shipyard also points to several of its own product names, such as Pumpkinhead, Melonhead and Applehead, and argues that consumers could easily conclude that Shiphead’s beers are part of Shipyard’s product line.

The complaint specifically alleges that Logboat’s packaging uses colors that are identical to colors used by Shipyard and incorporates the image of a sailing vessel that is identical to the ship on Shipyard product. Shipyard’s name and image are both federally registered trademarks. Disputes over packaging in the brewing industry are unusual. Usually, the conflict centers on product names or brewery names. Also, disputes are not limited to small breweries. In 2015, two very large California breweries, Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas, began and then quickly settled a lawsuit over the alleged similarity between packaging for Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter beer and Lagunitas’ India pale ale.

Trademark infringement disputes are not unusual in a competitive industry such as craft brewing. Anyone facing a trademark dispute, either as a potential plaintiff or as a defendant, may wish to consult an experienced business attorney for advice on potential litigation strategies and for an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a successful outcome.

Source: Portland Press Herald, “Shipyard files trademark lawsuit against Missouri brewery over ‘Shiphead’ beer,” James Patrick, May 16, 2017