Last Call: Patagonia’s Trademark Lawsuit Against A-B Continues; Narragansett to Open Rhode Island Brewery

Judge Denies A-B’s Motion to Dismiss Patagonia Trademark Lawsuit

A federal judge on Tuesday denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss a trademark case filed by outdoor clothing maker Patagonia after the world’s largest beer manufacturer launched a beer called Cerveza Patagonia.

According to Law 360, Patagonia sued for trademark dilution, rather than trademark infringement, due to the two company’s products being unrelated. A company can only file for trademark dilution when the mark has become “famous.”

U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that Patagonia, who cited more than $10 billion in sales, did indeed fit this description.

“To meet the ‘famousness’ element of protection under the dilution statutes, a mark must be truly prominent and renowned,” Phillips wrote. “Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that its ‘Patagonia’ mark is famous and distinctive.”

Along with trademark dilution, the lawsuit also sought to cancel A-B’s 2012 registration of the name “Patagonia,” as it could be associated with the apparel company. Phillips refused A-B’s request to dismiss those claims.

Patagonia general counsel Rob Tadlock told Law 360 that A-B has “deliberately tried to confuse customers into thinking that Patagonia Cerveza is produced by Patagonia, rather than Anheuser-Busch.”

Last month, A-B launched Cerveza Patagonia in 13 states.

Narragansett Acquires 18,000 Sq. Ft. Brewery in Rhode Island

Narragansett Beer officially acquired an 18,000 sq. ft. building in Providence, Rhode Island, which will serve as the company’s new headquarters. Narragansett plans to add an indoor taproom, outdoor beer garden and special event space to the facility, which is slated to open in spring 2020.

Narragansett president Mark Hellendrung told Brewbound that he expects the first phase of the project to cost $6 million. The company will also own the building.

In a press release, Hellendrung called the brewery acquisition a “homecoming” for him and “a new chapter” for the brand.

“To have a brewery right at the top of Narragansett Bay, that’s easy to get to in Providence, and is connected to the picturesque India Point Park and the East Bay bike path is really a dream come true,” he said.

Narragansett will continue to produce its higher volume offerings at FIFCO USA and Isle Brewers Guild in Pawtucket, while producing small-batch and innovation beers on a 15- or 20- barrel brewhouse in Providence, where the company also plans to install a canning line.

NBWA’s Beer Purchaser’s Index Expands in August

The National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — a survey of wholesalers’ buying behavior — expanded in August, with a reading of 57.6, up more than three points from August 2018.

However, just two segments expanded in August: FMBs/PABs (82 index) and imports (58 index). All other segments contracted, including craft, which posted a reading of 49 in August.

According to the NBWA, readings above 50 indicate segment expansion, while readings below indicate segment contraction.

A-B, Molson Coors Lawsuit Revived

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court this week revived a lawsuit filed by Mountain Crest SRL LLC claiming Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors Brewing Co. restricted beer imports from the United States to Ontario, Canada, according to Law 360.

Mountain Crest filed the lawsuit in 2017, stating the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) gave an unfair advantage to The Beer Store, a retail chain majority-owned by subsidiaries of both A-B and Molson Coors. Under a so-called “six-pack rule,” exporters had to pay to use this retailer in order to export 12- or 24-packs. A-B and Molson were both exempt from the fees.

A three-judge panel ruled that some of Mountain Crest’s claims held up “because they don’t relate to the actions of foreign governments,” while some are blocked by the act of state doctrine, the outlet reported.

Mountain Crest requested the court undo a rule that blocked LCBO, a government-run organization, from selling beer in packages larger than 6-packs, though the agreements to create this rule were deemed an “official act.” However, an amended complaint alleged that A-B and Molson conspired to bring about this agreement.

The panel stated that “holding Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors liable for their antecedent and allegedly deliberate acts to bring about the 6-pack rule and requiring them to pay damages to Mountain Crest would not, on its face, invalidate Ontario’s chosen regulatory scheme.”

According to the panel, the issue is also “further complicated,” due to the fact that the 6-pack rule as recently cancelled.

In a statement, A-B called the remaining allegations “completely without merit.”

Brewers Association Estimates Number of Breweries in Planning

Brewers Association (BA) chief economist Bart Watson, referencing state license lists and brewery-in-planning memberships in its database, along with Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) permits, estimated that 1,940 breweries will open in the U.S. over the next two years. According to Watson, when factoring in brewery closures, the number of total breweries in the U.S. over the next two years could reach around 9,200.

Read Watson’s full post here.

Bell’s Brewery Files Appeal in Virginia Distribution Dispute

Bell’s Brewery has filed a petition in Richmond Circuit Court appealing the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority’s ruling that it doesn’t have the authority to order arbitration in the Michigan craft brewery’s distribution dispute with Virginia-based wholesaler Loveland Distributing, according to Richmond Biz Sense. The brewery ceased shipments to Virginia in February after attempting to terminate its contract with Loveland, which was acquired in October by Reyes Beverage Group subsidiary Premium Distributors of Virginia.

In May, the ABC ordered that the two sides go to arbitration, which Bell’s and Loveland’s contract calls for in the event of termination. However, the ABC reversed course in July, claiming only a Virginia circuit or district court could compel arbitration.

According to Richmond Biz Sense, Bell’s is requesting “the Court reverse and set aside the remand order” and reinstate its initial decision.

John I. Haas Invests in Yakima Valley Hops

Hops supplier John I. Haas announced yesterday a strategic investment in ecommerce, direct-to-consumer hop supplier Yakima Valley Hops, according to a press release. The new partnership will give John I. Haas access to Yakima Valley Hops’ distribution channel of home brewers and small craft brewers, while providing Yakima with access to its hops and product portfolio.

“The best thing about this new relationship with John I. Haas is that they respect the customer-focused company culture we have here at Yakima Valley Hops,” John Snyder, co-owner of Yakima Valley Hops, said in the release. “They admired our ability to engage our customers via blogs, videos, emails and of course a local walk-in retail store. They’ve encouraged us to think bigger, act faster, and reach more customers.”

Anheuser-Busch Donates Canned Water to Hurricane Dorian Relief Effort

Anheuser-Busch, answering the American Red Cross’ request for aide, donated more than 100,000 cans of water to Florida residents in advance of Hurricane Dorian, according to Florida Politics. The water was delivered to A-B’s Jacksonville brewery from its production facility in Carterville, Georgia. Southern Eagle Distributing, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing and Bernie Little Distributors distributed the water.

India Rejects A-B’s Request to Lift New Delhi Ban

An Indian court this week rejected Anheuser-Busch’s request to put its three-year sales ban in New Delhi on hold, according to Reuters. The ban went into effect in July after accusations of tax evasion through the use of multiple barcodes.

Delhi High Court Justice Navin Chawla declined to lift the ban, stating that the beer manufacturer must first complete the appeals process. New Delhi’s excise commissioner previously rejected a request from A-B to delay implementing the ban.

Although he didn’t lift the ban, Chawla said he believed the barring A-B from selling products in the city was beyond the city government’s authority, and he will hear arguments on September 16.

CB Brewers Evicted from Property

The landlord of CB Brewers’ Rochester, New York, property sought more than $73,000 from the brewery, including unpaid lease payments, according to court records cited by the Democrat & Chronicle. A warrant of eviction was issued to the company two weeks ago.

CB Brewers, citing declining sales, announced earlier this month it was closing its doors on September 1. Owner Mike Alcorn told the outlet that the issue didn’t influence the brewery’s closing, and he has been trying to sell the brewery for three years.

“Really, I was ready to move on,” he told the outlet. “I had been trying to sell. It’s not anything to do with my business. It has to do with business conditions.”

Property owner David Dworkin told Democrat & Chronicle that he is looking to fill the space with “someone similar to Custom Brewcrafters, something that’s a destination that will help us develop what’s around it.”

Phoenix Ale Brewery Closes

Arizona’s Phoenix Ale Brewery has closed and will be replaced by a new brewery called PHX Beer Co., according to AZ Central. Local real estate developers purchased Phoenix Ale and its equipment.

Adam Wojcik, former national account director at Lagunitas Brewing Company, will serve as PHX Beer Co.’s brewery director.

Columbia River Brewing Co. For Sale

The space formerly occupied by Portland, Oregon’s Columbia River Brewing Co. is currently for sale, according to a listing on online real estate marketplace LoopNet. The brewery, which opened in 2010, officially closed its doors in May. The 6,100 sq. ft. space is being sold as a “turn-key, full-service brewery and restaurant.”

Blue Pants Brewery Set for Auctions

The assets of Alabama’s Blue Pants Brewery, which closed its doors on August 23 after more than nine years in business, are now being auctioned off.

According to a statement from Blue Pants owners Allison “Blue” and Mike “Pants” Spratley on the brewery’s website, the brewery closed due to “recent events and negotiations,” which the owners called an opportunity to “pursue other ventures.”

On BidSpotter.com, 133 items of the brewery’s equipment are listed in an online auction ending on September 11.

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