Trademark Infringement Issues Making Beer News Again
If you have ever visited one of McMenamins 50+ locations you likely know that the company brews a beer called Ruby Ale. To be fair, McMenamins began brewing it many years ago and apparently went to the trouble of getting a trademark on the term Ruby as it applies to beer. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, McMenamins filed for the trademark in 1993 and registered it in 1996.
Seattle's Odin Brewing Company was recently advised of a trademark infringement issue. The beer previously known as Odin's Gift Ruby Ale will now be called something else. It is likely that, in time, other breweries selling beers with the term Ruby in the name will be advised the same. For example, Pike Brewing's Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale is guilty of the same infringement. I think it is safe to assume that McMenamins will advise Pike of the same infringement, if they have not already.
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a hopelessly heart-strung teenaged girl mused, "What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Juliet had a point. The beer will taste the same no matter what it is called.
Dan Lee, owner of Odin Brewing, told me that the brewery is considering running a contest on the Odin Brewing Company's Facebook page to determine a new name. One way or another, they will come up with a new name and move on.
As long as we're alking about beer, it seems we'll be talking about these kinds of trademark issues. We should not be surprised. Get upset if you like, or just accept it as part of the business. See our previous post about Washington breweries and trademark issues. What if it were one of our beloved Washington breweries defending its trademark? Imagine going to the grocery store and finding a beer from a brewery in Ohio named Matt and Pat's African Amber Ale. Would you blame Mac and Jack's for defending their trademark? Something to think about.
Here's the statement from Odin Brewing Company's Facebook page:
"We were contacted this week by the management of McMenamin's Corp. (Portland, OR) that they have a U.S. trademark on the term, "Ruby Ale." Therefore, we are in the unfortunate position of taking the words "Ruby Ale," off all of our assets from this day forward. This does not affect the availability of the beer itself. We will continue to produce and distribute Odin's Gift and we thank you in advance for all of your support. Stay tuned for more info."