Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trademarks: Here We Go Again

It seems like we can't even blink between trademark disputes in the craft brewing industry. And it also seems like each dispute grows uglier than the previous.  Today, we see two breweries engaged in this ugliness: Magic Hat Brewing Co. and West Sixth Brewing, with the former suing the latter for trademark infringement. Social media sites just ooze of nastiness, mostly from supporters of each brewery, but occasionally from the breweries themselves--at least, they have not done much, if anything, to stop the flow.

Some of the rancor stems from the image of a giant beer company picking on a weaker one. And this does not sit well in a culture that has only recently become aware of the affects of bullying. Magic Hat is the playground bully; West Sixth is the new kid at school. The fight has begun.

Sadly, it could have been avoided. Private phone conversations, one-on-one discussions and even email would have been preferable to social media, lawyers' letters and lawsuits. Even though it sounds like attempts at personal contact were unsuccessful, going from discussion to lawsuit is a giant leap over some critical steps. Facilitated dialogue, mediation, and settlement conference are always options for disputants.  While more effective prior to retaining legal counsel, these options are still on the table.

Still, it surprises me that Magic Hat and its corporate connections have not figured out the power of social media. A power that can build and destroy. West Sixth knows this and are using it to their advantage. At least, so far. While I'm no prognosticator, this dispute will harm both breweries. And that's sad. 

No comments:

Post a Comment