The business of national craft beer has really taken off, hitting another record. In 2014 10% of the beer made in America was craft beer. It is the first time it has ever reached such a percentage. In addition, the sales in 2014 rose 22% from 2013 and the production increased with 18%. It is the 5th consecutive year in which the sales of craft bear have increased. Independent brewers produced 22.2 million barrels last year, meaning $19.6 billion in retail sales. The production rose up to 42% from 2013.
Statistics show that Americans have changed their tastes. They no longer prefer mass-market beer, but go for locally produced beer, which is more experimental and at the same time more expensive. The chief economist of BA (Brewers Association) commented on this and said it will help craft brewers obtain 20% market share by 2020.
In fact, Americans have become so good at this that they think they can compete with the Germans. Greg Koch, co-founded of the Stone Brewing Company in California, has bought a gasworks in Berlin and wants to transform it into a brewery. His beer is made in the US style, it is experimental and bold. He intends to attract the young people from Germany who are no longer interested in the traditional brew. They are looking for something new and craft breweries are perfect to satisfy their needs: they have so many colors, flavors and aromas from which you can choose.
Craft breweries open in the US all the time: more than one brewery every day. It is great news that this business is flourishing, but along with success there are some problems that arise too. Such a problem is the struggle of producers to choose a name and image for their business. It may sound as something trivial, but such things can really pit brewers against one another.
There are so many disputes regarding trademark that attorneys can make a living out of it. Candace Moon works as a lawyer in San Diego, a city where there are 90 craft breweries. Moon says that the business is more than enough. It is total madness. She even calls herself the craft beer attorney.
She deals with approximately 3,000 breweries in the country and nearly half of her work involves conflicts about trademark. She explained that there are many people who decide to open their own business in this domain and they all try their best to choose a creative name, but they do not know much about their rights.
Basil Lee together with his partner Kevin Stafford opened their own craft brewery in Queens, New York. They named it Narwhale, after a species of whale. But they had some problems with other produces from Sierra Nevada, the second largest craft brewer in the area. They had applied, although not yet received a trademark for the name Narwhal Imperial Stout.
Basil Lee did not have enough money to challenge it so he resorted to the help of social media. He posted his trademark on the internet, hoping that this would put some pressure on the brewers form Sierra Nevada and they would change their mind. But he only managed to embarrass himself on social media.
Basil Lee estimated that battling Sierra Nevada would cost him $150,000 and he could not afford it. Instead he gave up the campaign on the social media and changed the name of his company to Finback.
One of the biggest craft breweries from Northern California was involved in a similar conflict. Lagunitas Brewing Company used “IPA” (Indian Pale Ale) in their label. Another big company in Sierra Nevada used the same label (Hop Hunter IPA). As a result, Lagunitas filed a trademark infringement complaint against the company from Sierra Nevada.
Lagunitas was the first one to release this trademark 10 years ago, whereas the “Hop Hunter IPA” label was scheduled to be released on January 15. Indeed the two labels are very similar. This may seem as unimportant to people outside this business, but it matters very much in the craft brewing industry. Lagunitas said that the Sierra Nevada brand could be seen as their collaborator or could do harm their own brand. To solve this problem, Lagunitas requests not only a temporary restraining order on the release of Hop Hunter but financial compsensation too.
Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head brewery spent $230,000 in 2014 on defending his company’s trademark. That means that he spent more money in one year than he did when he started the brewery. He explained that it is inevitable for such overlaps to happen, be it deliberately or not. What matters is the way people deal with such situations. Matters like these should be handled with elegance and diplomacy. The craft-on-craft crime that exists nowadays should not be happening, he added.
Image Source: Square Pub
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