Trademark infringement is becoming an all too common occurrence among craft brewers. Kalamazoo's Bell's Brewery is the latest company to file a lawsuit over trademark infringement. The brewery is taking legal action against Innovation Brewing of Sylva, North Carolina over Innovation's name, The Asheville Citizen-Times reports. Representatives for the Michigan brewery argue Innovation's name could be confused with Bell's unregistered advertising slogan "bottling innovation since 1985."
On the surface it seems like a case of a bigger, more established brewer (Bell's) picking on the little guy. Last year, Bell's produced more than 310,000 barrels of beer, while Innovation produces around 500 barrels per year.
"We didn't see any confusion" with Bell's, Innovation partner Nicole Dexter tells The Asheville Citizen-Times. "We were pretty confident it could be worked out." But now the brewery has retained attorneys to defend itself.
Bell's founder Larry Bell chose not to discuss the issue with the paper. A ruling in the dispute is expected in October.
Clarification, 03/12, 11:21 a.m.: Vice president of Bell's Brewery Laura Bell turned to social media yesterday to address concerns (and a huge backlash that spawned a Chang.org campaign) regarding their trademark lawsuit. In particular, Bell notes that the brewery is asking (suing) Innovation to withdraw their Federal Trademark agreement. The entire post is included below.