UPDATED: Strange Brew vs Strange Brewing Company
This morning it was announced that Marlboro, MA based Strange Brew Homebrew Shop and Denver, CO based Strange Brewing Company reached a mutual settlement on their year long trademark dispute.
“I am glad that we were finally able to come to a resolution which respects our right to the Strange Brew trademark while still keeping Strange Brewing Strange,” said Brian Powers, owner of Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making. “Now we can focus on providing quality home brewing supplies throughout the busy upcoming holiday season, and moving forward with the permitting and construction of our own nano brewery.”
“As a small craft brewery, our objective is to create exceptional craft beer for our local, Denver community,” said Strange Brewing co-founder and head brewer, Tim Myers. “We’re extremely optimistic about the future and look forward to finalizing the agreement so that we can continue doing what we love – brewing quality, small-batch craft beer.”
Despite the settlement which allows Denver’s Strange Brewing to keep it’s name, in the opinion of this blog, Massachusetts based Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making still remains a giant turd. For more background on the dispute, listed below is our previous post:
Recently, the Westword published a post explaining how a Massachusetts based homebrew store was taking legal actions against Colorado’s Strange Brewing Company. What resulted was the craft beer community doing what would be expected of the craft beer community, which was to stand up for Denver’s Strange Brewing Co. Since then, BeerPulse.com has published the home brew shop owner’s rebuttal letter. Here is that letter in it’s entirety. And following that letter is my editorial rant against Brian Powers.
Strange Brew faces trademark threat from Colorado brewery.
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?
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.
Beer and Beer and Winemaking Supplies
This is the most ridiculous rebuttal note I have ever read. Lets analyze this and break it down a bit…
1) “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.” Are you kidding me?
Are you really so narcissistic to believe that Strange Brewing chose their name to bank off of some irrelevant home brew store in Massachusetts, or are you just that out of touch with pop culture to think that the movie and song had no impression on any other beer/pop culture fan?
2) “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.”
Actually coverage of your suit was covered by a local online publication and the backlash was a result of the brewing community, which is based on community and cooperation, standing up for your lack of community and partnership. These are not the ideals which has helped to make the craft beer industry boom, this not what has made this industry as successful as it is today. And when you disrupt that community, those people and businesses as a whole will stand up for those who are being wronged.
3) 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.
4)”We would be disloyal to our customers and our families if we didn’t try to protect what we have earned.”
You are being disloyal to the craft beer industry through your legal actions.
5)”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.”
The only thing Strange has done on social media to address those actions was one reposting of The Westword’s article on their own Facebook page.
6)”They have posted our privileged legal communications in an attempt to paint themselves as the victim here.”
7)”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.”
Cry me a river.
Here’s the deal Brian Powers, you are completely entitled to legal actions, but the whole PR shit storm you now face is a result of your own miscues. As I’ve mentioned before the beer community is about lending a helping hand, about promoting craft beer, and about supporting those like minded individuals who share those same ideals. This open letter about needing help is a joke, after following the events that have transpired since the Westword first published their post, your note seems to be the only one actively trying to victimize. So quit your pity party and take responsibility for your actions. Sure you can sue, but what good does it really do? Nothing. Go back to selling your product and let Strange Brewing Company go back to selling theirs.
Perhaps I am completely off base or perhaps you agree. Let us know how you feel about this issue by posting in the comment section below.