Craft Taste

Slow Ride: New Belgium and Oasis in Legal Dispute

New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado and Oasis Texas Brewing Company of Austin, Texas are engaged in a legal kerfuffle over the name “Slow Ride” for their respective beers. Oasis’s version of Slow Ride is an American Pale Ale brewed with Chinook, Cascade and Columbus hops. New Belgium’s rendition of Slow Ride is a Session IPA brewed with seven hop varieties. Both breweries began brewing their Foghat-themed beers in 2014.

OTXBC Slow Ride and NBBC Slow Ride

What happened?

In mid-May of 2014 Oasis began selling their version of Slow Ride. However, New Belgium contends that Oasis did not start selling their Slow Ride until August. This is due in part to Oasis’ “Grand Opening” in the same month, announced via Facebook. A quick search of the TABC database supports Oasis’ version of the story. Slow Ride received label approval at the end of April. On May 23rd “after conducting due diligence” New Belgium filed to trademark the name Slow Ride with the US Patent Office.

In October Oasis sent a cease and desist letter to New Belgium. According to the complaint:

“Defendant further demanded that New Belgium cease and desist all further use of the SLOW RIDE mark, destroy all materials bearing the SLOW RIDE mark, and provide Defendant with revenue and profit information related to New Belgium’s use of the SLOW RIDE mark.”

The Colorado brewery responded in kind with a letter of their own. Oasis filed for a trademark on Slow Ride in November of last year. New Belgium suspends distribution of their Slow Ride in the state of Texas. In December, the two sides met face-to-face in Austin, but were unable to come to an amicable solution. In January of this year New Belgium was granted registration of the mark “Slow Ride.” Last week Oasis was haled into court by New Belgium. You can read the whole complaint here. The heart of the lawsuit is about geographic distribution rights. According to New Belgium:

“New Belgium is not asking the court to order Oasis to take any action or pay New Belgium damages. Rather, we are simply asking the Court to let both parties know the extent of their rights in the Slow Ride mark and to finally determine the geographic areas, if any, where each party is exclusively entitled to distribute its Slow Ride branded beer.”

New Belgium desires exclusive rights of the name “Slow Ride” everywhere Oasis does not distribute, even in Texas. New Belgium and Oasis took to the blogosphere this past weekend to broadcast the news. Both parties also defended their positions on Twitter.

Who’s Right?

I’m not a caveman lawyer, just a caveman. Oasis’ timeline is substantiated by TABC permits, where New Belgium relied on Oasis’ “Grand Opening” to chronicle their argument. It appears that Oasis was selling Slow Ride shortly before the New Belgium filed with the USPO.  From my very limited understanding of Trademark Law, I have always thought that first use had priority over first to file. One of my readers pointed out, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act has changed the American patent system from “first to invent” to “first to file.” But, patents are not the same as trademarks. It would appear that this law is not applicable to this situation. How does New Belgium’s possession of the mark, affect Oasis’ claim to the brand? Thanks, to all the readers that helped clarify these issues. I had to make a few edits.

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer...I miss Phil Hartman

I love both breweries, one a stalwart of the industry, another an up-and-coming hometown kid, it would be nice to see them resolve it amicably. New Belgium asserts that they tried to resolve in a cordial manner, a claim refuted by Oasis.  Sadly, this sort of litigation has become commonplace in the craft beer industry. 3,000 breweries fighting over a finite number of brand names.

There are plenty of questions that need to be answered. If Oasis is triumphant in the courtroom, this could prove to be Pyrrhic victory. Can a one-year-old brewery afford to battle one of the craft beer titans in a court of law? Would this money be better spent on expanding production or distribution? Is the Slow Ride brand worth it? Oasis is claiming nationwide distribution rights, yet their beer is only sold in the Texas. Will that factor into the court’s decision? Will the decision have any bearing on other Slow Ride beers? Why didn’t New Belgium do a quick Google search or look through Untappd for other beers with the same name? Was a collaboration ever a possibility?

Stay tuned…I wonder what Foghat would think about this situation? Take it easy.

What do you think about this case? Leave me a comment and share.

5 thoughts on “Slow Ride: New Belgium and Oasis in Legal Dispute

  1. Dr_Strangelov3

    Ever since the the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (also known as the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act), the United States has adopted a “First to File” policy over the longstanding “First to Use”. The grace period for this policy ended in March of 2013, well before any of this transpired (obviously). Prior to this change, the United States was the only large economy in the world to not adopt this. While in some cases it has been misused for “patent squatting” (see: Lady Gaga Sausage Casing in China)

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/28/business/la-fi-china-trademark-squatting-20120328/2

    Oasis had all the power and ability to register “Slow Ride” before NBB did anything with it, but failed to.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leahy-Smith_America_Invents_Act

    1. Cameron

      Dr_Strangelov3, I am not a lawyer so I may not understand all of the intricacies of the laws myself, but it appears to me that the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act applies to patents, which are not the same thing as a Trademark (which I believe is where the dispute stems from – When New Belgium filed for the Tradmark vs. when OTXBC first started selling Slow Ride). From the United States Patent and Trademark Office, “In the united States, parties are not required to register their marks to obtain protectable rights,” and “The priority created by a filing date is not absolute. You may have very strong rights based on long use of you mark,” “So, if you are second in line but you have stronger rights than the applicant in front of you, you may be able to intervene with an opposition proceeding and prevent that application from registering. So while examination will not take place out of order, the second in line does have an opportunity to assert superior rights at the proper time in the overall registration process.”

      Source: http://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/trademarks/basics/BasicFacts.pdf

  2. Sarah

    Just a note…OTXBC beers are widely available all over Houston and the DFW areas. I would guess SA too but I personally know it’s in Houston and DFW. Spec’s and HEBs all over Houston carry it in cans and most craft beer bars have it on draught and have for many months.

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