Just two days after Northern California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against fellow craft brewer Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the company’s founder announced he would drop the case following backlash from a court of a different kind: that of public opinion.
The SFGate Inside Scoop reports that Lagunitas filed the suit on Monday claiming that Sierra Nevada’s use of “IPA” in the beer label of its forthcoming Hop Hunter IPA too closely resembled the label on Lagunitas’s flagship IPA.
According to the lawsuit [PDF], Lagunitas claimed that the similarities between the two labels were so great that the new Sierra Nevada label could either harm Lagunitas’s brand or look like a collaboration.
“The unique ‘IPA’ lettering used in the Lagunitas ‘IPA’ Family of Trademarks has a distinctive serif font, distinctive kerning (or letter spacing), between the ‘P’ and the ‘A’, slightly aged or weathered look, with uneven areas on each of the letters, and the elimination of any periods between the letters,” the suit states. “These elements together are unique to the iconic design of the Lagunitas IPA.”
Additionally, Lagunitas claims in the suit that if use of the label were to move forward, it could give Sierra Nevada’s new beer a boost in sales.
“This creates a consumer-perceived connection between the two breweries, thus providing Sierra Nevada with a shortcut to consumer acceptance of their India Pale Ale offering,” the suit states. “In radically departing from Sierra Nevada’s historical label designs that feature ‘IPA’ lettering in smaller text, usually preceded by another term and in connection with outdoor/nature scenes, Sierra Nevada will cause confusion in the marketplace with its proposed Hop Hunter IPA designs. In this regard, Sierra Nevada’s contemplated Hop Hunter IPA Designs will clearly and plainly violate the rights that Lagunitas has developed in its ‘IPA’ Family of Trademarks.”
With the lawsuit Lagunitas sought a temporary restraining order against the January 15 release of Hop Hunter IPA and financial compensation.
“Lagunitas will suffer irreparable harm from Sierra Nevada’s infringement of the ….trademarks,” the suit states. “Because Sierra Nevada’s actions will be or have been committed with intent to damage Lagunitas and to confuse and deceive the public, Lagunitas is entitled to treble its actual damages or Sierra Nevada’s profits, whichever is greater, to an award of costs, and, this being an exceptional case, reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant.”
On Twitter, Founder Tony Magee defended his company’s actions saying that he had attempted to work with officials of Sierra Nevada but was not successful in doing so.
For its part, Sierra Nevada released a statement shortly after the lawsuit was announced saying they planned to dispute the accusations, Inside Scoop reported.
“The Complaint alleges that Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter IPA design will create confusion among consumers between the Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada’s new Hop Hunter IPA, and we intend to vigorously dispute that any consumer could possibly confuse our Hop Hunter packaging with anything that Lagunitas has,” Sierra Nevada CEO Ken Grossman said in the statement.
Shortly after the lawsuit was announced, consumers took to social media harshly judging Lagunitas for bringing the lawsuit.
While consumers frequently air their distaste and grievances with companies via Twitter to no avail, this time it proved to be successful, with Magee announcing on social media site late Tuesday that he would drop the lawsuit.