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Friday, October 08, 2010

When "Beervana" Got Trademarked

An email this morning reminded me that Rogue had trademarked the words "dare" and "risk" as they apply to barley malts. I see nothing particularly ominous in this--I can't imagine anyone else thinking this would be a good marketing opportunity. Rogue clearly can't trademark the words in their traditional use, so really, it's another stunt to underscore the "Rogue" brand.

But it reminded me of a potentially darker mark that debuted earlier this year--one which may amount to nothing. Have a look:

Goods and Services IC 032. US 045 046 048. G & S: Ale; Beer. FIRST USE: 20080901. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20080901
Standard Characters Claimed
Serial Number 77002599
Filing Date September 19, 2006
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition May 8, 2007
Registration Number 3793428
Registration Date May 25, 2010
Owner (REGISTRANT) Comeback Brewing, Inc. CORPORATION TEXAS 141800 San Pedro, Suite 310 San Antonio TEXAS 78232
Attorney of Record Christopher D. Erickson
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

You may not recognize "Comeback Brewing," but that refers to Gambrinus-owned BridgePort, who rolled out their "Beervana" ads earlier this year. Texas-based Gambrinus.

Now, a Texas corporation owning the trademark to "Beervana" might raise a few hackles. But of course, it almost HAD to be a non-Oregon company that registered it; no locals would dare (not Dare ™) seize such a sacred and communal appellation. John Harris mentioned it to me earlier this year, with rightful pique--the Texas thing seemed to bother him especially.

Since I've been associated with the word for over a decade, I have a few thoughts, too. Of course, I've had this blog for four years. I also held the domain name a decade ago. Throughout this association, I've been very careful to recognize that the name is firmly in the public domain. When applied to the place of Portland or Oregon, it might as well be the words Portland or Oregon. Beyond using it as a tag in their advertisements, I have no idea what Gambrinus' interest in the word "Beervana" is.

Honestly though? I'm not too worried. BridgePort is mainly sold in the Northwest. The idea of using the word "Beervana" stems from the urge to sell beer. Getting in a huge war with people by trying to limit their fair use of the word "Beervana" will not result in greater sales. And there would be a huge war--one I'd be happy to lead. So I figure, it's interesting but not particularly threatening.

As micros get more and more macro, we're going to run up against these kinds of seizures of the psychic landscape of brewing. It's not a tiny brotherhood anymore; it's big business. Real dollars are at stake. I'm pretty cool with it, but I wonder--will it damage or dull the enthusiasm beer geeks have to the erstwhile mom 'n pop breweries? Your thoughts?


  1. One reason for Gambrinus/BridgePort to trademark "Beervana" is to prohibit the word's use in any other companies' marketing efforts. While those companies would likely be other breweries or distributors, they could also be event organizers - or perhaps even blogs like yours (which I could see becoming an issue should you decide to run your blog more like a business). They've obviously started investing money in the Beervana concept, as evidenced by the advertisements; I'm sure they're looking to protect that investment.

    Personally, I don't think any company should be looking to capatalize on "Beervana" - but it was bound to happen at somepoint. Better a company that has some association with Portland beer than one with none at all.

  2. ".....or perhaps even blogs like yours (which I could see becoming an issue should you decide to run your blog more like a business)."

    My thoughts exactly. Let's see if you get the ol' knock on the door... in an email. I doubt it though. But this is out of Bridgeport's hands as far as we know, and Gambrinus' lawyers probably haven't the slightest of this blogs existence.

    I find it slightly demeaning since a non-Portland based company is wanting to basically 'coin' the term... when it is to stay here... in Beervana. Oh well...

  3. Brady, I think you're definitely right on the first count. Trademarks don't have universal power. (Which is why "Dare" and "Risk" are kind of silly marks to own--super specific uses would be required to run afoul of them.) At some point, someone was going to trademark "Beervana," and the use would naturally be restricted. Now, if Full Sail wants to use the word to sell their beer, it's a no go--and enforcing the mark wouldn't get too many people excited.

    But the use of Beervana elsewhere is less clear. I'm not worried that I'll be targeted, because there's no upside--just a war with the media that can only damage business. Even if I did figure out how to monetize this blog, I'm not selling beer; I doubt seriously if they would win a settlement against me.

    I do think their lawyers are aware of me, though. Trademarking a word doesn't mean you "own" it in meme-like terms. Do a Google search of "Beervana," and you don't see anything related to BridgePort until the 13th source. Others have clearly been using the name for other purposes longer, and their associations to the name are more broadly recognized. (As to which link comes up first--well, natch.)

  4. What about that new business called 'Beervana' in the the hollywood neighborhood, sounds like they will be trying to sell beer. Problem?

  5. A Texan Who Owns Your Brewery11:59 AM, October 08, 2010

    Nelson (The Simpsons): "Bridgeport's Big Brother Beat ya to it! HA HA!"

    Ya knew some entity with major capital behind it would snatch up the Trademark or was that not ever a consideration? Snooze ya lose.

    What's your new blog name going to be? Stumptown Trub?

  6. We need resistance like this:

    Some good friends live in Katonah, and one is the editor of the local paper. They raised quite a stink when Martha Stewart tried to TM their town's name for a K-Mart furniture line. BLECH.

    Texas companies appropriating our town's sudsy nickname? BLECH.