Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing remarks on complaint by Moonlight Meadery

Reads 4835 • Replies 22 • Started Wednesday, April 27, 2016 6:08:50 PM CT

The forums you're viewing are the static, archived version. You won't be able to post or reply here.
Our new, modern forums are here:
RateBeer Forums

Thread Frozen
 
joet
admin
beers 2867 º places 125 º 18:08 Wed 4/27/2016

A little background...

From Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery:

"If you haven’t heard I am actively seeking your help, my company’s federally registered trademark is being attacked, procedures have been filed to cancel our mark. See http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=92063525&pty=CAN&eno=2 if you want to know who is after us."

https://www.facebook.com/michael.d.fairbrother/posts/10206362214591153

--

Here’s the deal.

I have trademarks and legal "prior use" of Moonlight Brewing Company going back to 1992. I built my brewery and my name from nothing, with no money, just lots of hard work. When I opened and first applied for a Federal trademark for Moonlight Brewing Company, the Federal trademark office refused my application because a French company had a "Moonlight" mark for canned pre-mixed cocktails. Who would have thought that was too close to beer? At that time, that trademark office employee did.

I filed for and received California trademarks and waited on the Federal mark, which the French company later abandoned.

Fast forward from 1992, when I heard that Moonlight Meadery existed, it felt like a sucker punch. I called and spoke with Michael Fairbrother at the Meadery. He made it quite clear that he did not want to respect my trademarks and prior use, because he felt mead was too different a beverage.

How it works with trade names is not as simple as one might think. Prior use is more important than filing the paper for a trademark. There are different categories of trademarks for different products when they would not be reasonably confused in the market place. There are tests which can be used to judge potential conflict of marks. If there was a car named Moonlight, or a brand of shoe, then no real concern. Alcoholic beverages are tougher. There are justifications for allowing alcoholic beverages that are similarly branded to coexist, mostly because they would be in different distribution channels, different retail placements, and different customer appeal. Still, it seems canned cocktails could be confused with beer, according to the trademark people. If we look at how Moonlight Meadery is marketing their products, in which market arenas, to whom, and with which contexts, it is not at all separated.

Moonlight Mead ratings are found on Beer Advocate, RateBeer, and conversations about it are on the Brewing Network. Note that these are not Mead Advocate, RateMead, nor the Fermentation Network. Note that some beer sites list Moonlight Meadery under the heading of "Brewery"

 
joet
admin
beers 2867 º places 125 º 18:09 Wed 4/27/2016


Moonlight Meadery goes to "Beer" tastings. Not just alcoholic beverage tastings with wine and liquor-no, to "Beer" tastings. The Mead is being marketed to beer geeks who are there for beer. Case in point, at one beer tasting about an hour from my brewery, the Moonlight Meadery table was about ten feet from mine. The consumers glass was filled with mead, then next filled with my beer. This is not even in New Hampshire, this is in my home area, where I had been making Moonlight Beers for over twenty years. One has little ground to stand on claiming that those beverages are too dissimilar for confusion. I spent the entire day having to explain to people that the Meadery booth had no connection to my brewery.

And, Moonlight Meadery sponsored the New England Regional Homebrew Competition?

What about Moonlight Meadery making a collaboration beer with Stone Brewing Company? That line has so been crossed.

Years back I asked Mr Fairbrother to not use the name. He chose to not take me seriously, and continue. Now here we are. I wish him and his Meadery success, it sounds like they are doing well. I readily admit that his meads are better than my attempts at mead many years ago! But I have to wonder if he had been expecting for this issue to come up again, knowing he was in beer territory. Please understand, I have no qualms about these meads being at beer tastings or such, just that it doesn’t work if he is using the Moonlight name in doing so.

I just need him to change the name, because it is clearly in conflict with my use and trademark. I hope a simple solution can be found. I have no desire to cause the Meadery any additional hassle. Sadly, this would not be an issue if he had either respected my marks when I asked him to, or he had gotten more complete legal advice explaining how we all need to live and work together.

 
SamGamgee
beers 2452 º places 182 º 22:18 Wed 4/27/2016

I had wondered about this. If this plays out legally, I can’t see how Moonlight Meadery gets to keep the mark.

 
joeneugs
beers 6371 º places 241 º 22:59 Wed 4/27/2016

I too have wondered about this ever since I saw Moonlight meads show up at my local bottle shop 50 miles from Moonlight brewery.

I have to admit, even as a pretty experienced craft beer drinker, I was confused at first. This is one case where confusion between the brands is a real thing now that Moonlight meads are all over Northern California.

I like both companies, but Brian Hunt of the Moonlight BREWERY seems to have solid footing here.

 
StefanSD
beers 2451 º places 57 º 23:48 Wed 4/27/2016

Hmm. I never realized there were two Moonlights, I always thought they were one and the same organization.

 
X
beers 172 º places 1 º 00:00 Thu 4/28/2016

I’m considering investing in a new cider-works in Julian. Thinking of calling it Moonlight Cidery. Those Mead people better not fuck with me.

 
StefanSD
beers 2451 º places 57 º 00:16 Thu 4/28/2016

Now I see that there is also a Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub in Colorado. They have leased permission? If Moonlight brewing wants to defend their copyright they need to get hot with a few C&D’s.

 
Oakes
admin
beers 23336 º places 928 º 13:54 Thu 4/28/2016

The other thing is that a lot of breweries make mead. The meadery might be exclusively mead, but I’m not sure how a mead or cider producer can argue that they aren’t targeting the same audience. A wine maker might get away with that argument, but I don’t see how a meadery does. There’s just too much overlap.

Not sure what the value of an appeal to the court of public opinion is here. I don’t think too many will see Mr. Hunt as a bully. It is the same name, same industry and he who was there first has a pretty strong moral ground. People in glass houses and all that.

 
StefanSD
beers 2451 º places 57 º 17:54 Thu 4/28/2016

Originally posted by Oakes
The other thing is that a lot of breweries make mead. The meadery might be exclusively mead, but I’m not sure how a mead or cider producer can argue that they aren’t targeting the same audience. A wine maker might get away with that argument, but I don’t see how a meadery does. There’s just too much overlap.

Not sure what the value of an appeal to the court of public opinion is here. I don’t think too many will see Mr. Hunt as a bully. It is the same name, same industry and he who was there first has a pretty strong moral ground. People in glass houses and all that.


I was wondering the same thing. I can’t imagine that his attorneys would advise him to take this case to social media sites. Maybe he is angling to get consumers to say that they are confused by the identically named brands so he can use that testimony in court.

 
blipp
beers 11618 º places 219 º 18:05 Thu 4/28/2016

So am I still allowed to be angry when a brewer sends a C+D???

If I remember correctly, this same board skewered a brewer for trying to protect his IP like a year ago. This is exactly why they do it. It might not seem like a big deal to have two different brewers on opposite sides of the country with the same/similar names, but as breweries expand into different markets, issues like this will inevitably arise if they aren’t dealt with at the beginning.

 
StefanSD
beers 2451 º places 57 º 18:26 Thu 4/28/2016

Originally posted by blipp
So am I still allowed to be angry when a brewer sends a C+D???

If I remember correctly, this same board skewered a brewer for trying to protect his IP like a year ago. This is exactly why they do it. It might not seem like a big deal to have two different brewers on opposite sides of the country with the same/similar names, but as breweries expand into different markets, issues like this will inevitably arise if they aren’t dealt with at the beginning.


I can’t recall a C&D discussion where the brewery name was ever in question. The last several, such as Magic Hat and Lagunitas for example, were about label graphic design similarities. I remember Alpine got into a tiff over Ichabod Pumpkin ale. Those were probably not good faith disputes either. Ballast Point got into a row with Yellowtail Wines over their Yellow Tail pale ale, but they settled it amicably. Perhaps someone can refresh my memory.