While the SweetWater/Lagunitas situation is behind us, Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada now have a new legal issue to sort out. This one is over the labeling 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 yesterday in the Northern District of California
- Index No. 3:15-cv-00153
- 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
- Additionally, Lagunitas notes the “Hop Hunter” branding appears to be a departure from usual Sierra Nevada labeling
- Sierra Nevada’s proclivity for collaborations, along with the branding departure, could lead consumers to believe this is a collaboration between the companies
- Tony Magee’s affidavit states that he personally reached out to Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, with no resolution
Now, I have written before about the need for a company—any company and business—to defend its trademarks. In fact a company is obligated to defend its trademarks, or risk losing them—the whole point of a trademark is to protect the brand. Look, no matter how that might leave a bad taste in the mouth of the defendant, it’s a necessary fact of business, and generally I have to fall to the side of the trademark owner.
But in this case I have to say… really? Trying to assert trademark dominion over how you display the letters “IPA”? No. Just no. There’s no way I think anyone would confuse the two for branding, looking at the above pictures. Similar, sure, but then…
I mean, if Lagunitas really wants to go after companies who use similar branding to promote “IPA” then here are seven labels that people might confuse with Lagunitas IPA:
Tongue in cheek? Maybe a little bit.