The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Brewers engage in brief but significant trademark dispute

rsz_trademark_-_imageTwo of America’s most highly regarded craft breweries engaged in a short legal struggle which may have much wider implications for the industry. Lagunitas Brewing filed papers alleging that the branding on a product from Sierra Nevada was too similar and likely to cause confusion for customers. There was a spirited debate in the beer community and Lagunitas withdrew the action shortly afterwards.

Although only very limited amounts of Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada reach New Zealand, there are broader implications. Currently, there is a broad discussion about whether craft brewing may be running out of unique names. If so, this could lead to more trademark disputes in the future. We have seen that here with the Radler controversy. However, the case under discussion was not about names but about format of the term IPA. If successful in the future, this case (or one like it) could set an important precedent.

The Beer Street Journal was at the centre of the discussion and reported:

“Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada now have a new legal issue to sort out. This one is over the labelling of Sierra Nevada’s forthcoming Hop Hunter IPA, as it relates to Lagunitas IPA. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Lagunitas Brewing Company vs. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was filed in the Northern District of California.
  • Lagunitas asserts four federally registered trademarks and two pending trademarks all relating to Lagunitas IPA, against Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA.
  • Basically, the complaint states the black, bold, “IPA” lettering, with distinctive kerning (spacing) especially with “P” and “A” are too similar.
  • Complaint asserts consumers might confuse the two brands, based on similar “IPA” branding.
  • Sierra Nevada’s proclivity for collaborations, along with the branding departure, could lead consumers to believe this is a collaboration between the companies.”

View the image in this newsletter or via the link below and make up your own mind.

Source: Beer Street Journal (