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Official response to the Northern Brewer situation from 3/22/11
To all interested:
Yesterday, Northern Brewer posted on their Facebook page about a cease and desist letter that they received from Bell's Brewery, Inc. I apologize that Bell's has taken so long to respond to this issue, but all members of management were travelling to the Craft Brewers Conference yesterday and could not get a response posted.
On March 18, 2011, representatives of Bell's Brewery, Inc. sent a letter to Northern Brewer regarding that company's use of Three Hearted Ale for a homebrewing kit. This letter was sent out at a time when Bell's is having to defend it's trademarks(including Two Hearted) on several fronts. Because we are finding ourselves in this situation, we believe that is necessary to correspond in writing to those we feel are infringing on our marks. We do not know the owners of Northern Brewer nor were we familiar with the products they offered until recently. From a legal perspective a phone call was not going to provide the documented defense that we need as we try to defend this trademark now and in the future.
Here is a partial extract of the letter we sent: "As a result of the extensive business investment by Bell's Brewery, significant goodwill has inured in the TWO HEARTED trademark." "While Bell's Brewery encourage the development of independent brewers and homebrewing, Bell's Brewery are concerned with your use of THREE HEARTED ALE Extract kit." "Bell's Brewery are of the opinion that there is a likelihood of confusion between your mark and the trademarks for TWO HEARTED owned by Bell's Brewery. The marks create the same overall commercial impression. Furthermore, the goods associated with your mark and the trademark for Two Hearted are identical." "Consequently, your use of THREE HEARTED is likely to create confusion, deception, or mistake among purchasers as to the origin or source of the goods/services, or convey to the purchasing public that the goods/services are approved by Bell's Brewery or that there is an affiliation or connection between you and Bell's Brewery."
We have no issue with Northern Brewer other than this trademark infringement. We are flattered that they want to clone our beer-we have no problem with that. In fact, our staff recently agreed to work with Zymurgy magazine on a Two Hearted clone. Clones are not the issue. Neither do we have a problem with homebrewers. Bell's was founded as a homebrew shop in 1983 and has been in that business ever since. We are great supporters of the homebrew community and have underwritten many competitions, donated prizes to clubs, conducted tours with homebrew clubs, provided beer for certain AHA conventions, spoken at AHA convention, held an AHA membership rally, etc. etc. We have no problem with homebrewing or homebrewers. We love homebrewers. Bell's has worked long and hard to develop and market Two Hearted Ale. It is a very valuable asset for our company.
As president of Bell's it is my job to protect those types of assets. That is my responsibility to my employees and their families, and to the shareholders of the company. Never were we contacted by Northern Brewer asking permission to use Three Hearted. Upon learning of Three Hearted we moved to defend an asset that we own and have owned for many years. This is our right and duty. A trademark that is not defended becomes worthless. And while some of you may think that this was harmless flattery, by not defending against this we would be opening the door for further challenges against our mark. At this time it would appear that Northern Brewer plans to respect and acknowledge our right to this trademark, as I understand that they are renaming their product. For this, we thank them. This is all we are asking for. As regards Third Street, we filed for an extension to oppose, not an opposition. The use of the extension is often used so that two companies can sit down and see what each others marks are, and if they can co-exist. Often an agreement is drawn up between the two companies for this co-existence. We are currently in that discovery phase with Third Street.
I know many of you think that Bell's was heavy handed in our actions. I'm sorry you feel this way. Bell's has been on both sides of trademark issues-sometimes a winner and sometimes a loser. Twice in the history of Two Hearted we have been sent cease and desist letters regarding the labels. Additionally, we acquired the label by written permission of it's former owner who gave it up many years ago. When these actions arise we try to respect others intellectual property and conduct ourselves with a modicum of decency. Trademark law is part of being in the consumer products business. I hope this letter explains our position and that you will understand that we are just trying to protect what is ours. We are sorry if some of you feel offended by our action, but for us we felt it was the most professional and legally necessary means to an end. We hold no malice towards Northern Brewer, their employees or their customers.
Larry J. Bell
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Bell's on Facebook
2011 Oberon Ale release news
The new season of Oberon Ale will arrive the week of March 28, 2011. We're getting excited here at the brewery, and we'll have more information about official Oberon release events as we approach the date, so keep checking the Regional Events page for gatherings near you. To whet your appetite, check out the mini-keg design for 2011; look for these after Memorial Day.