Choosing a name for your new product
Who hasn’t considered brewing his own beer at some point? “Rob’s beer, the Olympic drink!”. However, one thing is brewing your own beer, just for the fun of it, and another quite different, launching a new product on the market. Moosehead knows this very well.
When John Carr, Aridondack Pub & Brewery owner, decided to release his “Moose Wizz” root beer, he probably never expected to end up paying a $8,800 fine in court, because of
moose infringement trademark infringement and unfair competition.
The name is quite catchy, we must say, as it is the logo. We can only image the shock when the brewer received a notification from the Canadian company Moosehead Breweries Limited first opposing the registration of the moose before the Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), and later on being told that a lawsuit had been filed against him.
John Carr obviously wasn’t happy. Specially, after reading some of the specific requests in the complaint:
- That Defendant be required to deliver up and/or to destroy any and all products infringing the Moosehead Registered Marks in its possession, as well as all labels, literature, and advertisements bearing the marks, together with any means for producing same;
- That Defendant be ordered to pay damages to Moosehead adequate to compensate Moosehead for the acts described in this Complaint, or, upon Moosehead’s election, statutory damages, that such damages be trebled, and that Defendant be ordered to pay Moosehead its reasonable attorneys’ fees; and
#Freethemoose: a Youtube campaign
As a response to the previous, the owner of Moose Wizz Root Beer decided to post a quite moving video in YouTube explaining the situation and why he was fighting against these “corporate bullies”. For Mr. Carr it was, as he mentions in the video, it was a matter of principles, and one can easily see that he speaks from the heart:
Loosing the battle: Moosehead wins
Despite of his efforts, Mr. Carr lost the battle, what should serve as a cautionary tale for all of you who are thinking of a name for your new product. One wouldn’t think than choosing something so theoretically harmless as an animal for the name of a new beverage could be so costly. The truth is, you need to check whether the chosen name has been already registered in the trademark office of the country you intent to commercialise the product. If you don’t know how, check in the website of the office, they normally provide with enough good information. If you are still unsure, you may want to quickly check with a lawyer if you are serious about your business.
The second conclusion that we must take from this story is that more granularity seems to be needed when it comes to class protection within the US and Canadian IP Offices. In this case, the claimant has a registration for “moose” in class 32, which covers “beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic beverages”, among others.
Something that the latest European Trademark reform has done extraordinarily well, is creating more opportunities for specialised business, impeding registration on the class as a whole (what is technically called the heading), and requesting the filing party to clarify what good or service should be specifically protected (what is called the specification). These rules will hopefully prevent from this kind of clash happening in the European Market, as there will be plenty of space for more than one moose in the brewery.