Unopened Denver brewery hit with cease-and-desist over beers it's never served

Categories: Beer Man

FFsticker.jpg
The craft-brewing industry's troubles with beer and brewery names aren't going away any time soon, as the latest example shows.

Former Future Brewing, which won't open in Denver until later this year, has already been served with a cease-and-desist order over the names of its beers -- beers that it hasn't even brewed commercially or sold to a single member of the public.

See also: The hip Former Future Brewing takes a double-barreled fundraising approach

Former Future owners James and Sarah Howat posted the news on their blog (you can read it below), along with a picture of a beer from Societe Brewing, a relatively new beer-maker in San Diego, which already makes a couple of beers with the same name and sent a letter from its lawyer.

"They don't have a trademark and aren't selling in Colorado, but we didn't want to end up in a situation down the road where we are fighting with them if we end up in the same markets," says James, who has chosen to change the names of his beers -- and his entire branding strategy -- as a result. "We could have ignored the letter and said, 'Screw them,' and beat them to the punch in Colorado, but we decided to avoid confusion."

And while the exchange appears to have been a polite one, and Former Future was conciliatory in its blog post, the letter was just one of many that have been sent over the past two years to and from craft breweries in Colorado and around the country.

The Howats, who will specialize in "futuristic interpretations of historical styles" along with sour and wild ales, signed a lease for their spot on South Broadway's Antique Row in July. They have a 3.5-barrel brewing system and several fermenters.

Here is the Former Future blog post:

And it was bound to happen...

A letter. Received unexpectedly from another brewery, asking that we change our branding.

It was kind, thoughtful, and firm. It was written by a lawyer. Crap.

Societe Brewing, out of San Diego, California, had discovered us via one of their employees. And, they discovered a very important and concerning piece of information: two of our beers, and theirs, overlapped in name. Both the Harlot and the Roustabout share names with Societe. But beyond that, they too use names of members/occupations in society, much like Former Future has done.

Upon reviewing Societe's letter, we gave them a call. They were gracious and understanding. But really, it boiled down to this:

They've been in business for several years now, and have won several awards for those beers with which we share names. For Former Future, it was a no-brainer. We had to not only cease the use of the Harlot and the Rousabout... we had to change our entire branding scheme.

Crap.

But, we'd rather it be now than later. We'd rather get this email now, prior to opening, than later, down the road when are open and established and releasing new beers and even further building our brand. We'd rather think really long and hard about our branding and make it something truly unique to carry forward throughout the life of Former Future.And, we can't account for every brewery or homebrew supply shop or whatever... but we can try. Which leads us to now:We are going to be working over the next few weeks to develop a brand that is intriguing, thoughtful, thought-provoking, clever, and fun. Beyond that, we'll be working with an illustrator to create a new avatar, rooted strictly in the values and identity that we want to portray. Which will then lead us into the future...

For now, we'll leave you with this: We are working every day to build a space for you. To create beer for you. To remain true to who we are and what we believe in.

In the next few weeks - TTB permitting - we'll be opening our doors to you. At that time we will reveal our new branding. For now, know that it. is. coming. SOON. No one could be more excited than we are.


Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan


Location Info

Venue

Map

Former Future Brewing

1290 S. Broadway St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Courtney Donaldson
Courtney Donaldson

IP law is complicated, if they have been using the names or logos for a while, they have the rights to it/them OR the new brewery can file for a co-entitlement (hence CR & TM laws mentioned), they don't necessarily (but should) have to file.... the CA guys are still in the right...

cora
cora

you don't have to "think harder" about beer names- you just have to spend 10 seconds on Google using search terms like "harlot beer" "(name you're workshopping) beer." The names in question come up numerous times. (smacks forehead...)

Darci Amundson
Darci Amundson

The other brewery didn't trademark the beer names.

Courtney Donaldson
Courtney Donaldson

Nothing "crap" about copyright and trademark laws... Next time do your homework to avoid this situation, makes the transition quicker and a whole lot cheaper!!!

Chris Wallner
Chris Wallner

It is going to come down to breweries naming there beers like Odell Brewing Co does. IPA, Red (soon to be changed), Bourbon Barrel, or after people like Eugene Milk Stout. Sad that you cannot simply make a similarly named beer like Renegade Brewing Company had to deal with before. heres to a great culture that is about to become pretty boring with regards to names.

Christopher Weston
Christopher Weston

I hate hearing about this stuff, especially when it gets ugly. I think some places should accept they will only ever be a local, and they really have no worries about some brewery using the same name for a brew on the other side of the country. I tried a Berliner Weiss at GABF from an out of state brewery (Nodding Head, PA) that happened to have named theirs the same as Crabtree's Berliner Weiss, the Ich Ein Bein Berliner, lifted from a famous JFK quote. I told them that we had one out here of the same name (both are delicious), and they told me they had heard, via the brewer approaching them there at GABF, basically telling them to lawyer up. This is of course only one side, but it is sad when they act like children like that, any reason to sue and get money for nothing, tis the American way.

gerty
gerty

Two seconds googling could have prevented this whole situation

monopod
monopod

Seems like a reasonable request by Societe Brewing, and a classy (not to mention pragmatic) response by Former Future.  Hopefully the beer industry is learning something from all of these trademark dust-ups.

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

A cease and desist from a brewery that uses wordpress as it's webpage? Super lame. Well, stick it to them by making great beers I guess...

babadhalgarag
babadhalgarag

I've always been a proponent of not naming beers. You end up identifying it by its style, anyway, so just avoid the trademark thing and just call them Stout and Cream Ale and such. And I'm a little surprised there aren't more brewers named after the owner(s). The Howat Brewing Company has a certain ring to it...

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@Chris Wallner I think there are enough words in the world to keep brewers busy and creative for decades to come. They haven't even scraped the surface in terms of themes - medical terms, the flora and fauna of Bolivia, deceased Russian ballet stars, torture devices of the Spanish Inquisition, all the Inuit names for snow, etc...

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

@Christopher Weston That sucks. Googling "Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weiss" turns up Nodding Head, Crabtree, a place called Pegs Cantina in Florida and something called Black Dog in New Zealand. If what you say is true I hope Crabtree has a lot of $ to stop all these people, yikes...

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

@monopod Judging by the stories every other month in Cafe Society, and even the comments on this piece, it seems like the beer industry hasn't learned it yet.  It doesn't help that every small brewer thinks they'll be the next New Belgium and that beer they're brewing is going to be the next Fat Tire.

smaisch
smaisch

@milleralexjames That's a pretty low shot. True, their web presence isn't up to snuff, but don't discount their beers. Societe is run by dudes coming from Russian River and The Bruery. Their beers and tap room, as well as brewing setup, are top notch. I make it a point to visit Societe every time I go to SD.

I don't know if you realize this, but tens of thousands of dollars (if not in the hundreds) have gone into Societe creating and building their brand and presence. They had every right to go the route the did and frankly, they made a very wise choice. There was simply too much overlap in branding to call it fair.

andy
andy

@milleralexjames hahaha, all of those lawyer fee's and couldn't pay someone  a little bit to improve their website

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

@smaisch First off, where did I ever take a crack at their beers? I called them on their lame-ass website as a joke and nothing more. I'm sure they make quality beers and my comment was no knock on the brewery/beers itself, only on their poor web presence.

Second, they DO have every right to go the route they did - I also feel it's not out of line to make a joke about a brewery in CA that went well out of it's way to lawyer up and stop a unopened brewery in CO from starting it's yet-to-truly-be-introduced marketing strategy when they themselves have absolutely no online marketing presence that I can find.

The point of my joke was that while I think what Societe did was smart from a business standpoint, it' seems mildly excessive when their homepage is the same free blog used by crazy cat ladies.

milleralexjames
milleralexjames

@smaisch said : "True, their web presence isn't up to snuff, but don't discount their beers."

Well since you literally said that exact phrase, used words like "I don't know if YOU know this..." AND replied to my comment, it makes it a little tough to figure out that you meant a statement and not a rebuttal, haha.

Anyway, here's to hoping that two (hopefully) quality breweries figure this out without needing to invoke the legal team.

smaisch
smaisch

@milleralexjames I didn't say you were discounting their beers. It was more of a statement than a rebuttal to your comment.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...