Strange Brewing faces a trademark threat from a Massachusetts homebrew shop
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.