Strange Brewing faces a trademark threat from a Massachusetts homebrew shop

Categories: Beer Man

Thumbnail image for StrangeBrewing 011.jpg
Tim Myers has been pouring Strange Brew since 2010.
Something strange is going on.

In September, as Denver's Strange Brewing was gearing up for a small expansion as well as the Great American Beer Festival, owners John Fletcher and Tim Myers got a letter from a lawyer demanding that they change their name.

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"Your continued operation of a microbrewery establishment under the name '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, and constitutes a direct infringement of my client's federal trademark rights," 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."

The lawyer's client: Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making Supplies, a shop located across the country in Marlboro, Massachusetts.

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 -- something that would benefit both small businesses and avoid legal hassles.

But the shop's owner, Brian Powers, turned him down. And on November 2, Powers's lawyer officially rejected Myers's offer, calling it "offensive," and threatening to sue. (Find both letters from the lawyer, as well as Myers's response, below.)

"This is a homebrew shop that sells Mr. Beer kits," says Myers. "He trademarked Strange Brew for homebrew supplies and wine supplies and beer. But he has never sold a commercial batch of beer since he opened in 1997. So now I have to consult a trademark lawyer and argue that while he may have maintained his trademark on the homebrew side of it, he hasn't brewed, at least legally, any commercial batch."

Strange Brewing opened in 2010 after Fletcher and Myers were both laid off from their jobs. It pioneered a new wave of more than fifteen small breweries that have opened in town since then. Strange itself recently added brewing capacity and a back patio, and plans to expand into a space next door early next year.

Continue on to read both letters.

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Strange Craft Beer Company

1330 Zuni St., Denver, CO

Category: General


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92 comments
ziabandido
ziabandido

Pot...Kettle...Black.

So it seems that this dust up may have something to do with what looks like maybe the home brewing company getting flagged or possibly receiving a c&d inspiring them to recently change their logo by dropping the strutting bear holding a frosty mug leaving a generic beer/wine/grape/hops design. Seems that the Grateful Dead and Dogfish Head are going to market later 2013 with "American Beauty" pale ale. Probably not a coincidence the logo change. Litigating this makes no sense on any level. All seem like a couple of guys just looking to build good businesses. This isn't how you do that.

http://www.rolliesvariety.com/home/brewing.html

http://www.mnn.com/food/beverages/blogs/grateful-dead-to-launch-american-beauty-beer

stevebody
stevebody

Just found this homebrewers group in Oregon, associated since 1994, making them older than than Brian Powers and his little pop stand. I may well ask them to C&D Powers.

http://www.strangebrew.org/

stevebody
stevebody

I've read and reread now the baffling protestations of Dave Powers and find myself wondering how any one person could be so completely unaware of the effects of their own actions and the ramifications of them. In a culture in which two guys like Adam Avery and Vinnie Cilurzo both wind up with a beer by the same name - a situation rife with legal pitfalls - but decide to laugh about it, combine the two beers, and release a brand new creation called "Collaboration Not Litgation", it seems that the message "Don't go out of your way to be a grasping, fence-building putz. That's not what craft brewing is about" SHOULD be crystal clear. I think Mr. Powers can probably forget about his hazy, nebulous plans to start a brewery, as well as the presumption that Strange Brewing was just supposed to abdicate any intellectual territory within light years of Strange HOMEBREW's tiny fiefdom. His claim that the primary identification of the word "Strange" is with his company is even more shaky than his grasp of the culture. His website, after all is http://www.home-brew.com/, NOT "Strangebrew" or "Strangehomebrewing" or anything that establishes anything more than a narrow regional use of his store's name. I suppose the folks at Strange probably DID know of a HOMEBREW shop in Massachusettes. I work in the beer trade and I had a vague knowledge of them. But to claim that Strange latched onto the name to trade off Powers' firm's good name is a rather staggering display of naked ego. HOW, to ANY rational person, does a Massachusettes homebrewing supply company's "reputation" enhance or advance the cause of a microbrewery in Denver? I promise you, Mr. Powers, that ABSOLUTELY no living human being who discovered Strange Brewing thought ONCE of your little pop stand

Mr. Powers blank assertion that legal issues are not fought in the court of public opinion or in the social media betrays one more lack of essential wisdom on his part: he may very well have some sort of vague claim here. But the people who pull stunts like this almost always rely on the simple lack of resources of the companies they single out - as with Ravenswood Wines vs. Black Raven Brewing or North American Breweries vs. Georgetown Brewing - to keep the issue from ever reaching court. They know that the business they go after can't afford to fight the action. I guarantee that's what Powers' Denver attorney is thinking. But Powers didn't figure in the MASSIVE and growing revulsion and disgust the public in general feels about these divisionist, territorial, me-first-and-ONLY legal actions and that the craft brewing community absolutely condemns. You, Dave ol' buddy, have really crapped your bed with this silly business. No matter what the outcome of this action you started, the name of Strange Homebrew Supply is now thoroughly trashed. No  beer produced by you under that name will EVER sell to anybody who calls themselves a craftbrew fan. But, I suspect you know that, don't you? Otherwise, you'd simply be going about your business, selling hoses and hops and kettles and awaiting the outcome in Denver, instead of mounting this whiny, self-obsessed, desperate campaign to further defame Strange Brewing and attempt some lame patch job on your tattered reputation. Go ahead, smart guy - WIN this thing. The sad fact is that you've already lost something far more precious and permanent that a lawsuit. You lost your reputation and the acceptance of the very people upon whom you depend for your livelihood.

And the worst thing of all is, you may very well go to court, where you will probably lose. Courts have this consistent standard of what constitutes "singling out" one potential source of conflict when there are other and far closer examples that went unchallenged. What about all those examples cited here? What about the DOZENS of beers with the word "strange" as part of their name that can be found with a simple search of RateBeer or BeerAdvocate? What about every other cultural reference, like the movie cited here? Did you Cease & Desist all of them? No? Then you singled out Strange Brewing. And a lot of judges will rule against you on that basis. But most of all, you neglected to figure that there might just be enough supporters of Strange Brewing who would donate money and raise funds to let Strange fight this. Which is what is happening right now. I'm donating. LOTS of people are. Benefits are being organized. The word is spreading. You LOSE, Dave. Already. Done. Hope you're happy writing that big check to your lawyer.

jchavez
jchavez

The Brew Hut in Aurora is where I get my supplies...not sure why people from CO would pay to get stuff from out of state anyway...

cmanley542
cmanley542

I happen to be one of the "dozens" of Colorado customers and received the pleading message from Strange Brew in MA this morning. Initially I was sympathetic to the shop and Mr. Powers, but after doing some more research I've changed my mind. 

 

It seems that this is the real reason they are going after the brewery, "We are also currently in the process of opening a small brewery in Massachusetts."  Convenient, now that you want to brew you decide to take on anyone who is using a name you want. It's bullying, amateur, and bush league. You can take me off your list of customers. 

pourcurator
pourcurator

Of course Intellectual Property laws are complex and protecting one's IP is important, and of course the MA shop has a right to do it. But to do it, claim to be insulted by an amicable attempt to solve the problem without lawyers, and then complain that beer people don't find the saber-rattling, adversarial approach appealing, is the act of a company not thinking about its broader brand.

 

There are ways to settle these things that preserve everyone's time and money. Licensing agreements are the most obvious. But when you act like a bully, sometimes that turns people off, so don't do it if you care what people think. No one started a social media war, Mr. Powers, your store chose the usual legal course of aggressive, rather than conciliatory, tone, and it's annoying people who just want our tiny craft beer community to be nice.

 

You have a right to protect your property. And consumers have a right to dislike you for doing it in an angry way. If you didn't think about the broader implications of your actions, I don't see how that's fair to blame on some guys in Denver.

loveDENbeer
loveDENbeer

My favorite quote from the home brew shop:  "..Including DOZENS of current customers in Colorado" (emphasis added).  Dozens! 

cellzey2
cellzey2

 

Strange Brew Homebrew Shop didn't come up with the name "Strange Brew" either.  It's the name of a 1983 film, a Cream song, a tavern, several coffeehouses (including a large one in Austin), a software company, an online comic, an occult supply store, etc. all with an online presence, all of which took me about 5 seconds on Google to find.  So how can they claim they own the rights to it?!?

 

They were using the Grateful Dead dancing bear logo on their Facebook page, then took it down when people started calling them on it.  Surely they don’t own the rights to that.  Hypocritical much?

 

Strange Brewing Company in Denver, after receiving that first letter from their lawyer, tried to “reach across the aisle” and come up with an amicable solution.  Whether Strange Brew liked it or not is not what upset people.  What upset people is the tone of the subsequent letter that was sent by their lawyer, calling their offer “offensive” and frankly they just came across as a complete jerk who is trying bully another small business with litigation.

 

Strange Brewing Company did not start a social media campaign to attack the MA homebrew shop.  They posted a link to the Westword article (http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2012/11/strange_brewing_trademark_threat.php) which has the full text of all three letters, and people were able to see for themselves the tone of both sides and then, of their own free will, fans of Strange Brewing Company and hundreds of craft beer fans in general analyzed the situation and are extremely unhappy that Strange Brew Homebrew Shop chose the path of litigation rather than collaboration, an idea that has caught on and is promoted within the craft beer community.  Strange Brewing Company did NOT launch a social media campaign against them.  People saw what huge jerks Strange Brew was being and they let their voices be heard.  In a society with free speech, that’s how social media works!  We have that right.  Strange Brew Homebrew Shop has repeatedly deleted comments on their Facebook page in an effort to hide the backlash, but it has carried over to Yelp, beer forums, Reddit, and more.  That’s the digital age for you.  Maybe they should have thought this through more carefully before they decided to go down this path?

 

So to summarize: the reputation of Strange Brew Homebrew Shop has been tarnished because, ultimately, they decided to sue someone to “get ahead”, Strange Brewing Company tried to find a way to work it out with them, Strange Brew Homebrew Shop responded with another threatening letter from their lawyer, the word got out, and people have let them know about their displeasure with the situation.  Period.

MoreCheers
MoreCheers

I go to Strange Brew to get my beer brewing supplies (no, I do not use a Mr. Beer kit) and the guys at the shop are great.  They are a business that has done well enough to move from a small store (15ft x 15ft space crammed floor to ceiling with products) 2 years ago, to the space they have today.   I also have huge respect for the Colorado microbrew scene after doing a microbrew tour through Fort Collins and Denver (best microbrew scene in the country). Folks at both companies are probably great and trying to maintain their businesses (not an easy thing to do and legal matters don't help), but Strange Brew the movie was there first, so new names for both.

 

More cheers, less jeers and the world would be a happier place.  (I'm going to go trademark that now.)

 

NorthBrew
NorthBrew

I have to say I'm disappointed to see the tone of comments on here.  I have a small business and it is my job to make sure I'm not infringing on somebody else.  This is pretty clear cut from a legal perspective (trademark and IP is my field, brewing my hobby.)  Same market, same name, and I should point out that sending a 'cease & desist' is the nice option; suing out of the gate is the nasty litigious offer.  That the brewery came back and offered a deal where they would be promoted by a more established business is indeed offensive, not to mention vague inferences that the shop might be producing illegally, or that they are a hole in the wall selling Mr. Beer Kits.  They are one of the best and largest beer supply stores in New England and they've done a hell of a lot for the brewing community there.  Can we really say that the significantly younger business somehow is more deserving of the trademark than the established one?  Why, because you like their beer?  Because you don't like people from the North?  I know this is a hobby for many of you, but this is a business for these guys.

strangebrew1
strangebrew1

(part 2 of 2)

 

We have to protect our assets, just like any small business trying to make it in today’s world.  We have struggled hard to get where we are, not through harassing our competitors with some social media rant, but through selling good products and backing up our brand.   We would be disloyal to our customers and our families if we didn’t try to protect what we have earned.   To maintain OUR federal trademark rights, we cannot allow another similar business to use our name and hijack the good will we have earned.

 

We were forced to hire a lawyer and send a cease and desist letter to the infringing company.

 

Knowing that they have no legal defense here,  Strange Brewing Company in Colorado has decided, rather than to face up to the mistake they made, to start a social media war, hoping that they can beat us into submission.   Fortunately, the U.S. system of justice is not about popularity contests, or who is better at sending anonymous (but easily traceable) hate mail through web portals.  It  is based on application of the law to the facts, and in this case, if necessary, a court is going to find that the Strange Brewing Company has infringed our trademark rights.  It’s that simple. They claim that they want to avoid a costly legal battle and collaborate, but their only offer has been to allow us to clone their recipe kits. How exactly is that fair? They copy our valuable name, and then “offer”  to let us sell their product?  Seriously?  We too would prefer to spend our time and money doing something besides going to court, but if that is the only offer on the table, then thanks but no thanks.   We have to, and will, protect our brand and the 16-year investment we have made, and we are tired of playing games.

 

I do not personally know the people from Strange Brewing Company. I am sure that they make good beer, and work hard and they obviously have a loyal following, but the issue of integrity and personal responsibility seems somehow to have been lost.  I  was ready to assume that they were also ‘nice guys’ but I question their approach to dealing with this clear-cut legal matter.  They have posted our privileged legal communications in an attempt to paint themselves as the victim here.  Not  so – if there is a victim here it is us, not them.  The local Denver press seems to have picked up on this as well, but so far not one of the journalists has bothered to get our side of the story or even attempt to get their facts straight.

 

‘Someone’ started a Facebook page called ‘Keep Strange Brewing Strange’ in support of the company that is currently infringing upon our trademark. This campaign is picking up steam, and spreading slanderous, hateful speech, which is causing damage to the brand that we have spent decades building.

 

We were forced to temporarily suspend our Facebook page while we deal with the barrage of untrue and hateful comments about Strange Brew.  The site is back up now, but our Yelp rating is dropping fast.  Please don’t let this happen.  We also invite you to come sample our products as well, and maybe you will understand the reputation we have worked so hard to earn.

 

While I am always hesitant to ask for help, I don’t think I can handle this alone.

Any support you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thank you,

Brian Powers

Strange Brew  Beer and Beer and Winemaking Supplies

 

 

strangebrew1
strangebrew1

Attention loyal customers, friends of Strange Brew, and others who care to hear the whole story and who care about the truth.

 

As you may have recently heard, Strange Brew is in the midst of a trademark dispute with a small two year old start-up microbrewery in Colorado that “coincidentally” has decided to call itself “Strange Brewing Company.”    Simply put, they are trying to profit from the valuable reputation and the good will that we have built up over the last 16 years in our brand.  They have admitted they knew of us and our name when they started, but apparently they thought they would just slip under the radar.   We have demanded that they stop, but instead of facing up to the situation, they have decided to “fight back” by stirring up a social media lynch mob,  trashing us and our lawyer for protecting our brand.  This has included several media posts that contain a completely inaccurate distortion of the real situation.  This is becoming a distraction and it is time to set the record straight.  Enough is enough.

 

Draw any conclusions you want, but please don’t do so until you have all the facts.  Please consider the following.

 

Strange Brew LLC. in Marlborough Massachusetts is a small, family owned business, that has been in existence since 1997. We are a “local business” just like Strange Brewing Company.  We sell quality products, just like they do.   We have worked hard for years to provide quality home-brewing supplies and brewing advice to the local, national, and international brewing community. We currently hold a federal trademark for both beer, and beer and winemaking supplies. We are, in short, no bigger than the folks in Denver, the only difference is that we have been around for almost two decades, selling quality products and slowly building a valuable brand.  We have taken the right steps to protect our brand, like any other well run business, and for that we are now being  branded as bullies. We sell supplies through a number of retail, and online outlets, including dozens of current customers in Colorado, a place that has become one of the standout microbrewery capitals of the country, and we’re proud to be a part of it.

 

We are also  currently in the process of opening a small brewery in Massachusetts. Through the years we have also sold beer products, and we are now focused on expanding that division as our business continues to grow. 

 

Strange Brewing Co. has admitted that they were aware of us when they started their own business using our name. They have stated their belief that due to our geographic distance, and the fact that they only sell beer, not beer supplies, there should be no reason to complain.  Here is the problem.  First, like it or not, their decision to copy our name is causing confusion.  We live in a wireless, digital age where geographic factors are more irrelevant each day.  The fact that we are on the East Coast is meaningless.  We continually do business with our Colorado customers, and have repeatedly had customers, both from Colorado and elsewhere,  comment to us that they tried “our beer” in Denver.  Some of our vendors and suppliers have also been confused, and in a couple of cases we were unable to purchase supplies on credit because of a negative credit reference that arose after payments were mistakenly applied to the wrong account, due to the similarity in our names.  Finally, we have been unfairly portrayed as trying to “steal” their name, as if this is a David and Goliath scenario in which we are some corporate giant, like Starbucks or Coca-Cola, mercilessly picking on the little guy.  That’s just not the case.    They try to portray us as thieves – but who is the real thief here?  The ones who have been around since 1997 or the ones who decided to copy our brand less than two years ago, instead of doing it the old fashioned way and coming with a brand of their own?  Who is stealing from whom?

 

(part 1 of 2)

 

Thank you,

Brian Powers

Strange Brew Beer and Beer and Winemaking Supplies

 

Masshole_relief
Masshole_relief

I called the guy on his 800 number to talk to him about it.  What a tool. I hope he goes to court and loses.  Strange Brewing should do a fundraiser to raise money to fight the clown, I'd donate to it.

beerme
beerme

Links to this article are all over multiple home brewing forums. This Masshole has done more damage to his reputation than Strange Brewing could ever do on purpose. I have to believe his sales are, and will continue to be, in the tank. Since the facebook page has been taken down I just went to the store's site and voiced my opinion to the owner via the *contact us* tab. He can run, but he can't hide. The craft brewing and home brewing culture in this country doesn't like chicken shit behavior like this.

MightyJoeYoung
MightyJoeYoung

The guy in Mass is clearly a tool, as is his lawyer. He ripped his name off of a movie, I hope he ends up getting sued for trademark and copyright infrigement himself.

anin
anin

Is this MA shop also going to sue the Strange Brew Homebrew Club in Oregon? 

Russell Lott
Russell Lott

so ... Should Bob & Doug sue everyone for taking the name from the movie?! or do we slip back to Cream ....

BeerSpy
BeerSpy

I posted on Strange Brew the (The Homebrew Shop)  Facebook page that their legal actions are not being well received within the homebrew and craft beer communities so they banned me from their Facebook page.  This shop sounds like it's ran by some real winners.

lwood786
lwood786

Why is it people seem to not even consider that this guy brian worked his tail off for 15 years to create a sweet home-brew shop and make a name for himself.Hes not suppose to defend his name? which by the way he filed a federal trademark for. Dont you know your suppose to check the federal trademak registry before making a a business name. thats  the point! not how nice everyone is or how cool people think they are. it is simple. They guys at the brewery failed to do the research to find the trade mark brian registered and WORKED AND PAID for!!  He has distributed beer under the name and distributed recipes under the name and sold to Brewers accross the world. He is not trying to damage any business just protect his name. Get over it

Areyouserious
Areyouserious

Do you think they asked Bob and Doug McKenzie if they could use Strange Brew.  Maybe the hosers need to be showered with homebrew love.

cellzey2
cellzey2

The website of Strange Brew Home Brew Beer & Wine Making Supplies, btw, is www.home-brew.com.  So...I wonder if they also plan on trying to sue over the use of "home", "brew", and "homebrew"?  And anyone using a hyphen.  Or ".com".  Because come on, someone looking for homebrew supplies in Marlboro, MA might get confused and go to some other ".com" on the interwebs and accidentally purchase shoes...or something.

Ninja69
Ninja69

Ninja69 here. Strange Brewing isn't necessarily my cup of tea, but the assholes suing them deserve a wiener in the ass (unless they are into that). Someone should just notify the Grateful Dead estate about Strange Homebrew's appropriation of their bear icon/mark.

markymarkchitown
markymarkchitown

This really reminds of the whole Monster vs. Vermonster debacle.  This current issue has big corporate money written all over it. In my humble opinion, besides Northern Brewer, Morebeer, and Midwest Supplies, I don't think that any other homebrew store has enough money to pay a $500/hour attorney to litigate something where there are no damages and only a small chance at getting attorney's fees. I think a bigger player is behind this. Go to discovery and see who's footing the bill.

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

 @jchavez Couldn't agree more! I go to Beer At Home in Englewood on S. Braodway, and I have no idea why anyone would go online and NOT use Northern Brewer or More Beer if you're going to go that route. I take pride in supporting local guys who work hard and want to keep my money in CO as much as possible.

cmanley542
cmanley542

 @jchavez I actually get most of my stuff from Northern Brewer or MoreBeer. I won a contest awhile back and part of the prize was $100 at Strange Brew in MA. 

gio0
gio0

@cmanley542 The fact that they plan on brewing themselves makes it all the more understandable that they would have to protect their trademark. It also explains why they would have no interest in collaborating. Strange Brewing doesn't have a leg to stand on.

gio0
gio0

@cellzey2 When someone steals your trademark which they have no right to, you don't find a way to collaborate with them, you take steps to protect it. It seems to me that Strange Brewing is actually the ones unwilling to cooperate by not changing their name.

 MA customers still shop at strange brew and will continue to do so. The shop has been around a long long time. It's only those out in CO that seem to care about this issue. Ultimately it doesn't matter. The courts don't care how many "likes" someones facebook page gets. 

stevebody
stevebody

 Way to completely miss the point, Northie. The actual, legal POINT is whether Strange Brewing can REASONABLY create confusion in the marketplace for Strange Brew Homebrewing Supplies, 3,000 miles away. In a court, under strict rule of law, Strange Homies would have to PROVE not only that the confusion would exist but that they are not merely singling out ONE potential source of conflict to send some sort of preemptive strike type of "messsage" with the suit, which courts have traditionally frowned upon. In American commerce, there are thousands of examples of companies, products, and brands with similar names. In the craft beer community, there are a bewildering number of beers with EXACTLY the same names and, just for example, breweries like the THREE "Epic Ales", one in New Zealand, one in Utah, and one in Seattle. Why isn't the original Epic, the NZ company which does business in the US, sueing the other two? ANSWER: because it would be a douchey thing to do and would poison their reputation here. That's the ridiculous and truly unwise thing Brian Powers has done here: persisting in this asinine fence-building crap when it's become massively obvious that he's alienating THOUSANDS of the very people upon whom his livelihood depends. He talks vaguely about "hope to start a brewery SOMEDAY". Do you imagine that anyone in the American craft brewing culture will ever buy a single bottle of that beer? With all the revulsion and public scorn being heaped upon Strange HomeBrew over this situation? Brian Powers doesn't realize it yet but he's lost far more already than he stands to gain. Look at the responses here. I hope you don't think this is every one of the people who are infuriated by this. And that, for a business owner, is every bit as much a part of "protecting my brand" as is warding off infringement. I run the country's largest online beer retailer. I can't afford to take on somebody whom I perceive to be a potential "threat" because I have to consider the ramifications of picking on some smaller company. I protect my brand...by being nice. Being cooperative. Finding acommodations and compromises. THINKING beyond my own momentary paranoia. It was a HUGE stretch for Powers to imagine that Strange Brewing constituted a threat. He was, in fact, as he's already tacitly admitted, irritated that Strange Brewing got to the name before he managed to slap it on his nebulous, hazy, maybe, someday brewery of his own. THAT, folks, is the reason for this C&D: to stake out territory Brian Powers obviously feels is his by some sort of divine right. The potential confusion with Strange Brewing was already handily sorted out - by Powers naming his company its official minicker: STRANGE BREW Beer & Wine Making Supplies. It clearly spells out the business category. As does Strange Brewing. The real issue here is larger than simply a legal right to the name which, if you want to get specific about it, was obviously stolen from the movie or the Cream song, so Powers' claims of originating it ring rather hollow. In fact, he wasn't even the first to register it in a homebrewing context. Strangebrew.org has existed in Central Oregon since 1994, three years before Powers' pop stand. Know why they're not suing him OR Strange Brewing? Because they're not douchebags. And "protecting my brand" includes knowing when you're about to become seen as a D-bag and NOT stepping over that line.

gio0
gio0

@NorthBrew Great post! I was beginning to think that there were no sane people left on the internet...

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

 @strangebrew1 "They have posted our privileged legal communications in an attempt to paint themselves as the victim here.  Not  so – if there is a victim here it is us, not them."

 

First off, there is nothing privileged about the communication that they posted.  Nothing.  Zip. Zilch. Nada.  You have a lawyer send them a nasty cease and desist letter, send a second letter calling their offer of compromise "offensive" (regardless of whether you think it was a fair compromise, it was made in good faith and a counter offer or simple rejection would have sufficed), and then whine about how they've posted these communications?  Did these communications not happen?  Do they not describe the sum total of your interaction with them?  How then can you complain about this?  Oh, right, it feeds into your victim narrative.

 

I'm an attorney, though not an IP one, and based on my rudimentary understanding of the law, you may have a case.  May.  It's certainly not 100% clear cut, given the origins of the name and the existing uses of it nationwide.  But given the circumstances and the lack of existing damages, you clearly went about this entirely in the wrong way.  If your business and good will have suffered because of all this, it has suffered because of the way you handled it, not because of the alleged infringement.  You would do much better to apologize, start over with the seemingly fine folks at Strange Brewing, and seek collaboration, not litigation.  I'm sure it is still possible, and you'd get lots of good press for it.

 

There is still time to do the smart thing.  Note I said "smart thing", and did not say "right thing".  Right is for someone else to decide; you certainly feel like you are "right".  But what good is being right if you're name is being dragged through the mud.  Do the smart thing, eventually you'll probably decide it was the right thing too.

RickMoranis1
RickMoranis1

 @strangebrew1 Dear Mr. Powers,

 

It has come to my attention that you have been using the name "Strange Brew" for your local beer and winemaking supply store.  As this clearly violates the Federal Copyright Law of the characters and film "Strange Brew' invented by myself and Dave Thomas I demand that you cease from using the name 'Strange Brew' immediately or we will be forced to proceed with legal action.

 

We have to protect our assets, just like any writers trying to make it in today’s world.  We have struggled hard to get where we are, not through harassing our competitors with some social media rant, but through selling good material and backing up our brand as comedians.   We would be disloyal to our customers and our families if we didn’t try to protect what we have earned.   To maintain OUR federal trademark rights, we cannot allow another similar business to use our name and hijack the good will we have earned.

 

Sincerely,

Rick Moranis

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

 @strangebrew1 I like that you're username on here is "strangebrew1" - I guess that means that "strangebrew" must've been taken already, and you're planning on suing that person for taking your comment-posting-business away from you, cause YOU'RE the real "strangebrew" dammit!

vegasgreg19
vegasgreg19

@strangebrew1

Mr. Powers,

First let me start off by saying on one regard, I admire you and what you have done with your business.  Obviously you have worked hard and be able to maintain a business for well over a decade and in today’s business landscape that is no small feat. I commend you for that. You are in a business that is near and dear to me as well as everyone else who has commented here.  People like me who are just starting out or do home brewing as a hobby lean on people and businesses like you. From what I have seen, you and your staff are very knowledgeable and helpful to folks just starting out. Trust me, having a knowledgeable person to help you pick out the right equipment and ingredients is essential in getting started and again I commend you and your staff for excelling at this.

 

As you know the home brewing/ microbrewery community is a close knit one.  That’s why I think this has blown up like it has.  It’s kind of like having your best friend turn their back on you.  I think it is more your tact at handling this that is what folks are having a problem with.  It seems that a lot of this could have been handled without getting a lawyer involved.  It just seems when lawyers get involved it muddies the picture.  Mostly because lawyers have the reputation of weaseley wordsmiths who will do anything they can to win. I have a cousin who is a lawyer and I know some of his methods really make me question how he sleeps at night.  Could you not have tried to reach out to the guys at Strange Brewing Company first yourself and see if an agreement could be reached amicably? And to say that when Strange Brewing Company reached out to you to see if some sort of collaboration could be made, to call it “offensive” comes across as very crass. I’m not sure if that was your reaction and words or your lawyers but it just seemed down right mean.  The brewing community preaches collaboration and we see it all the time. For instance, Oskar Blues has collaborated with another local competitor of theirs SKA Brewing to have a collaborative beer out on the shelves. They have also worked with Sun King Brewery in Indiana for a collaborative beer.  There have been other instances of breweries working together. It’s something that makes our community of brewers great and stand out from other industries.  I know and understand you have to look out and protect your business. I respect that. But the way you have done so is what folks have taken the offense with.  You are asking us to see your side of the story and so we ask you, as a community, to see the other side as well. 

 

Please also know that they guys at Strange Brewing Company are in no way responsible for the social media “attacks”.  The facebook page “Keep Strange Brewing Strange” was set up by @sam.dewitt.2001 as a fan page. He is in no way associated with Strange Brewing other than being a fan of their beer.  It’s no different than if he had set up a Justin Bieber fan page, although for his sake I hope he doesn’t set up one for him!  I hope this whole thing can be worked out amicably for both you and Strange Brewing Company.  It would be a shame if it couldn’t.  But again I ask you to try to see the side of it we as a collaborative brewing community see it.

Masshole_relief
Masshole_relief

 @strangebrew1 Mr. Powers better get a clue.  If he goes to court he will lose because his trademark will become invalidated as soon as the opposing counsel points out that he doesn't have the right to use it either since it was stolen and copyrighted by Warner Brothers and is now owned by Turner Entertainment which predates his trademark.  

sam.dewitt.2001
sam.dewitt.2001

 @strangebrew1 PS: The "someone" in question who started the Keep Strange Brewing Strange page was me. I have no affiliation whatsoever with the brewery, other than enjoying their beer, their atmosphere, and finding it ridiculous that you'd take action in this manner, completely ignoring a reasonable solution in the process.

 

I'd guess the Yelp reviewers feel the same way.

sam.dewitt.2001
sam.dewitt.2001

 @strangebrew1 Hate to break it to you, but it wasn't Strange Brewing Company "stirring up a social media war." That was done by the fans of Strange Brewing Company.

 

Fans who think it is patently absurd that you'd come after a business -- Strange Brewing Company -- while not doing likewise to other companies, as wide ranging as coffee shops to bars, to do the same.

 

Fans who think it is patently absurd to steal a name yourself (unless you wrote the movie Strange Brew or the Cream song by the same name) and then claim it as your own. Further, fans who think it's ridiculous to sue for damages over copyright infringement while using the Grateful Dead's "Dancing Bear" logo on your website and facebook page.

 

Fans who think it is bordering on insanity that you'd come after a fellow traveler in the beer world -- an industry which thrives on cooperation between brewers, despite directly competitive situations -- instead of opting to work with them to improve the standing of both brands.

 

Fans who take offense with you hiring an attorney who sends out nastygrams instead of simply working with the owners of Strange Brewing to find a solution.

 

You complain about your Yelp ranking, but frankly, you earned that.

 

Cooperation. Not litigation. Your lawyer's letters violated the first law of brewing: Don't Be A Dick.

 

Better beer for all,

 

Sam

stevebody
stevebody

@strangebrew1 Wah-wah-wah. Too late. You already trashed your reputation. Go ahead: brew some beer. No craft beer fan in America is going to buy it. I run the largest online beer retailer in the US and I absolutely GUARANTEE that no beer you brew will EVER be sold by my company or anyone else I do business with.

markymarkchitown
markymarkchitown

 @BeerSpy He didn't block you. I think he deactivated the page. I tried to check it w / my wife's account and nothing came up.

stevebody
stevebody

@lwood786 Give it up. Powers pointedly isn't suing ANY of the other craft brewing OR cultural users of the word "strange". He's singling out one little brewery in Colorado whom he figured wouldn't be able to afford to fight back. Too bad for him. People are SICK of this kind of crap and are willing to pony up dollars and arrange benefits and expend effort to help Strange Brewing fight this thing. Powers doesn't have a leg to stand on. If you want to be that sort of greedhead, grasping tool, fine for you. The rest of us are entitled to think you're a putz, too.

markymarkchitown
markymarkchitown

 @lwood786 They fail the legal test. Where is the likelihood of confusion or diminishing of good faith? This guy is being sold a line by his attorney if he thinks there are any actual damages to be found in this potential lawsuit, and it's a gamble at best whether he'll get his attorneys fees covered in the event he does win. Who the hell has heard of Strange Brew beer and wine supply?!?! The only people I've seen on brewing forums who have heard of this store are from the New England area, and those people have now vowed to boycott his store. Real smart move Brian.Adam and Vinnie (Avery and Russian River) set a precedent for the craft brewing community when they both had Belgian beers with the SAME EXACT name. They decided to make a profitable and delicious opportunity of it. In an industry where craft and artisan beer (which are the same people who homebrew) only make up 5% of the beer market share, and they face mounting pressure and legislation from the big brewers and their lobbyists, these small businesses should be banding together.If Brian wants to be dickhead, then he can be a dickhead. And if Strange Brew-ING has to change their they have to change their name. But in the end of the day who is going to have the support and recognition of a faithful community... Not the litigious jerk.

BeerSpy
BeerSpy

 @lwood786 I may have some respect for this guy if he wasn't hypocritically using the dancing bear that is trademarked by the Grateful Dead in his website and Facebook logos (correction, the website logo was taken down a few hours ago, but the Facebook is still there).  I may also have some respect if Strange Brew were an original name and not from a song and a movie from 1983.  I may also have some respect for him if he would defend his position instead of just banning the people that are posting to the company's Facebook page.

Nickbrew
Nickbrew

 @markymarkchitown Big corporate money? You could not be farther from the truth.  I shop at this store and have watched it evolve from a 15'x15' cramped space to a decently sized retail establishment, and in all that time the "mom and pop" atmosphere has never changed.  The owner's at the store working on things a lot, he has a dedicated and knowledgeable staff, and he holds community events on his premises to introduce new people to brewing.  If the owner is paying an attorney, it's out of his own pocket and because he wants to protect his trademark rights.

gio0
gio0

I'm surprise Strange Brewing hasn't asked you to take the page down. By allowing it to stay up, they are condoning the social media attack on Strange Brew.

gio0
gio0

@markymarkchitown @lwood786 MA residents still shop at Strange Brew. There isn't as much backlash on the east coast as you think there. 

They've def passed the legal test, as there is plenty of evidence of confusion from both their customer and their suppliers (read the letters!).

stevebody
stevebody

@gio0 Why wouldn't they condone the "attack"? The "response" - which is what it actually was - wasn't generated by the brewery. It was an honest reaction to this sort of douchey power play. You seem to be suggesting that there's some sort of decorum, here; some sort of etiquette. There's no etiquette in situations like this. Is the REAL Strange Brewing supposed to LIKE this crap? Are they supposed to HONOR it? Bu___hit. They're supposed to fight, which is what their fans are doing. Fact is, it would't stop the page if Strange DID ask to remove it. In the larger sense, this isn't about Strange Brewing. It's about jerks like Brian Powers who whup up phony "conflicts" to "protect their brand". What Powers is REALLY saying is that he has no regard for the public. He sees all of us as gullible sheep who can't tell the difference between a microbrewery in Denver and a homebrew supply shop in Massachusetts. His contempt for us is blowing back in his face and everything I can do to protest this sort of cheap-shot nonsense if WELL worth the effort. Fact is, Powers has NO hope of "winning",  here. Even if he forces Strange to  change their name, this asinine business has made people love them even more and despise Powers. His hazy, maybe, someday brewery will NEVER sell beer to the American homebrew community because we simply don't like jerks. Way to shoot yourself right in the foot, Brian. Save that hefty check stub after you write the check to your "lawyer" because that and your busted reputation is the real, tangible result you'll get out of this.

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