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.
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.
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.
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.
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