Early in December, Starbucks sent a cease and desist order from atop its coffee throne to the Exit 6 Brewing Company in the town of Cottleville (pop 3, 075). The issue? Exit 6 was selling a beer called Frappicino. Starbucks, as you may be aware, keeps the trademark to the word “Frappucino” deep in a mountain where it is guarded by a mocha dragon. As the two are only one letter apart, Starbucks felt it likely that someone may wind up in Cottleville, drink the beer, and assume they are at a Starbucks.
The owner of Exit 6, not as easily cowed by lawyers from a large corporation as some might assume, returned a letter to Starbucks where he promised to refer to the beer as only “The F Word” from then on, and enclosed a check for $6 to account for all the profits of the beer up to that point, since they had sold three.
We can assume Starbucks was placated by this offering, but what of others out there? Surely frappicino wasn’t the only beer that infringed on a copyright, was it? Of course not!
The Terror of MechaHopzilla
In September of 2013, the NOLA brewing company, makers of the clearly awesome MechaHopzilla beer, were served with a lawsuit from TOHO Inc, the company behind the original, Japanese Godzilla films. TOHO claims the beer can itself features the likeness of Mechagodzilla, which is does, while NOLA says they applied for a trademark when they started brewing the beer and they hadn’t heard a word from TOHO until this lawsuit. Hopefully none of this effects their follow up beer, King Yeastdorah.
Is it a 6 or a 9?
Magic Hat brewing Company tried to put the kibosh on smaller brewer West Sixth Brewing due to logo similarities. Magic Hat’s claim was that West Sixth’s logo was a rip off of their Number 9 beer label and, to be honest, it seems to be because a 6 looks like an upside down 9 which, you’ll notice, isn’t so much an issue of copyright infringement but of the poor crafting of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system a couple thousand years ago.
After a pretty impressive social media campaign against Magic Hat, the two settled the lawsuit by having West Sixth remove a tiny star and the word “company” from their logo, and then apologize for any media smear campaign that may have hurt Magic hat’s business by alleging they had filed a frivolous lawsuit and claimed ownership of the number 6.
In Belgium, beer copyright is taken super seriously. So seriously that the brewer Alken-Maes trademarked the color blue that they use in their logo (Pantone 2478C for anyone interested) and made it “their” blue thanks to their brand being incredibly well known in Brussels with 60% brand recognition thanks to that blue. Not too shabby, blue.
Along comes inBev, one of the largest booze pushers on earth, owners of Anheuser Busch and many others, and their beer Jupiler Blue. A logo redesign and a slight change to their blue later, and they basically were selling beer that, from across the beer store, looked just like Alken-Maes’ beer. A court supported the trademark in this case noting that, from across the store, a customer is going to see the exact same color blue and have to pause a minute to decide what beer they want, and God knows when you need beer you don’t want to waste time figuring out which beer you want, you just want beer.
Pepsi Hates Nudity
The tiny Bare Naked Brewery in Cardiff, Wales which produces beer sold from its own store and available in 4 other local locations, was served with papers from PepsiCo thanks to that word “naked” in the name. Pepsi produces “Naked Juice” and was apparently very concerned about their sub-moronic customer base who might find themselves in Wales, unable to tell the difference between a beer and bottle of juice. The brewery agreed to change the name and now go by the name Pipes. They sell a chocolate wheat beer and a Baltic porter espresso, both of which sound fancy as hell.