This is an article I wrote that was originally posted on the the website beerpulse.com.
(Coronado, CA) – Monkey see, monkey do.
At least that is what Coronado Brewing Company claims in the case of this chimp.
In May, Coronado (“CBC”) filed suit against Elysian Brewing Company (“Elysian”), alleging that Elysian “knocks off” Coronado’s registered and unregistered trademarks in an attempt “to associate Elysian’s goods unfairly with those of CBC and to divert business from CBC.”
Elysian filed an application for label certification for a beer called Idiot Sauvin as part of its Manic IPA Series in January, subsequently releasing the beer to the public in February. CBC specifically argues that this beer name would violate its registered trademark, “Idiot,” which it obtained in 2011.
CBC drives its point home that the beer is a “knock off” by stating, “The Defendant’s mark and materials suggest . . . that the India Pale Ales . . . sold by the Defendant are those of CBC. Yet, the Defendant’s goods are not of the same quality as CBC’s goods. The unsuspecting consumer can be angered by this misleading advertisement.”
In order to prevail in its case, CBC will have to prove:
- IDIOT is a valid, protectable trademark;
- CBC owns IDIOT as a trademark; and
- Elysian used a mark similar to IDIOT without the consent of CBC in a manner that is likely to cause confusion among ordinary consumers as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or approval of the goods.
CBC’s federal trademark registration creates a presumption of validity of the IDIOT mark (fulfilling #1), and of CBC’s ownership of the IDIOT mark (fulfilling #2). The third factor will be the crux of this case (i.e., whether a beer called IDIOT SAUVIN would likely be confused with CBC’s IDIOT line of beers).
The two parties apparently settled out of court after Elysian agreed to change the beer’s name from IDIOT SAUVIN to SAVANT. As this case brought some bad press to Coronado, I believe a brewery should only resort to a trademark lawsuit in the direst circumstances (where the other side’s mark is clearly causing confusion with your mark, and the other side refuses to cooperate).