One of Detroit’s oldest microbreweries Traffic Jam & Snug filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against popular Michigan-based beverage brand Blake’s Hard Cider, alleging trademark infringement, the Detroit News reports.
The issue revolves around the “Traffic Jam” name. According to filings, Blake’s Hard Cider began pursuing a federal trademark on April 29 for the phrase in the hard cider category ahead of the May release of its Traffic Jam triple berry-infused hard cider. Flavored with raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries, the cider is currently available year-round and distributed to 18-states, per a release.
According to Traffic Jam & Snug’s federal court filing, the brewpub’s operators first became aware of the similarly named cider on May 20 and attorneys for the business promptly sent a cease and desist letter to Blake’s demanding the cider maker halt use of the mark by no later than May 31. Blake’s allegedly did not respond to the letter.
“Blake Farms’ use of Traffic Jam’s TRAFFIC JAM mark in the manner described is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive consumers as the affiliation, connection, or association of Blake Farms with Traffic Jam,” attorneys for the Detroit brewery claim in the filing.
Traffic Jam & Snug does not hold a registered trademark, George Schooff, an attorney at Butzel Long who represents Traffic Jam & Snug, confirms to Eater in an email. However, Schooff contends that the brewery can still claim rights to the Traffic Jam mark, because it has a record of consistently using its Traffic Jam mark since 1965. “Trademark rights arise from using a mark in commerce, not from registration,” he writes. “In fact, with a limited exception for intent-to-use marks, you cannot obtain a federal registration in the US without first showing you’ve used the mark in commerce.”
The claim uses examples such as Traffic Jam & Snug’s U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved cheeses and an appearance on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to establish the brewery’s use of the mark.
Traffic Jam & Snug is seeking damages, the recall of all Traffic Jam cider, destruction of all promotional materials related to the product, and attorneys fees.
“This matter was just brought to our attention and our trademark attorneys will be reviewing the complaint,” Andrew Blake, owner Blake’s Hard Cider, writes in a statement to Eater. “Once we gather more information, we will be better prepared to speak on this.” Blake Farms began selling hard cider in 2013.
Update, 10 a.m., June 7: This story has been updated with a more detailed statement from Blake regarding the litigation.
Read the full lawsuit filing below.