As is wont to happen in the ever expanding craft beer industry, two Florida breweries have run into a trademark dispute.
On October 29th, Coppertail Brewing Company filed suit against Coppertop Brewing Company over the issue of "trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation
of the laws of the United States and the State of Florida." Coppertail also alleges "deceptive trade practices in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act."
Coppertail Brewing Company, which began operations to the public in August of this year after a two year build up and construction process, is looking to prevent confusion in the brewing space with this action.
"I can't comment in detail about the case at this point," Kent Bailey, President of Coppertail Brewing Company responded in a comment to Clean Plate. "But I hope we can come to a friendly resolution that avoids any confusion over our products in the market place.
"I did try to resolve this issue without legal action several times over the past year," he continued. "Both in person and in writing. I wanted to give them plenty of time to rebrand, because I know how hard it is to open a brewery. But, in the end, I felt that I had no choice but to take legal action to protect my brand."
Matt Cox, the brewmaster of Coppertop Brewing Company, which is in the build-out phase of construction in northern Boynton Beach, told us that they were hit with a cease and desist and began talking with his lawyers.
"We met face to face at this year's Jupiter Craft Beer Festival and there wasn't any big conflict. It was quite a shock to us to get this. Fighting this would take years, and we want to get this all resolved," Cox says. "We may have to end up rebranding. We registered our company years ago; it's not something we just started yesterday."
According to SunBiz.org, the state's division of corporations website, Copper Top Brewery LLC was filed and has remained active since 07/13/2012, while Coppertail Brewing Co LLC was filed and has remained active since 10/08/2012.
Noted beer industry lawyer Ross Appel explained some of the nuances of trademark law when it comes to business names, giving some insight into how the courts might take a look at this suit.
"The fact that it's the same industry is major. The main thing that courts consider is the closeness of marks... both begin with 'copper'... There's case law that deals with the beginning of a business' name, that's what the consumer will remember, that's the main portion of the mark, its more likely that consumers are confused."
"If there's actual confusion, that's important evidence."
"The second main thing the courts consider is the similarity of product. When you have the exact same product, the similarity of marks that's required is less. There's also the fact that many marks use 'copper' in their names, that could work for them, its kind of neutral in the end."
Bailey of Coppertail felt that the confusion would be too much, and aims to protect his brand and consumers.
"I wish Matt and Al [Lettera] the best in their project. I want them to get their brewery going and make great beer. However, I think it will be bad for their brewery, our brewery, and the Florida beer consumer if they open with their current name."
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.