Morpeth Brewery have decided to bring details of this dispute into the press while they are promoting their new trading name, Anarchy Brew Co, having changed it from Brew Star. As a result we have started to receive negative emails and twitter messages from people sympathetic to them. We have decided to put our side of the story as we have noticed our followers have been contacted by some of those people.
We have been trading as Brewster’s since 1998, nearly 14 years. We also own the trademark Brewsters in the Beers and Lager class and several related classes. With currently over 800 breweries in the UK a clear brand identity for each brewery and their beers is more important than ever. By owning the trademarks we have clear legal rights for Brewsters which cannot be disputed. We learnt this the hard way when we started up, we did not take it personally. By taking a conciliatory approach, in due course we were able to buy the first and original Brewsters trademark and then collected the others. We also started to work with the trademark lawyer who originally worked for the other side in our case and who now advises us on any trademark issues.
We first came across Morpeth Brewing Co which was trading as Brew Star a couple of months ago. We were alerted by the confusion of a publican mistaking their beer for ours. Alarmed by this, we took advice from our trademark lawyer to clarify our rights and they agreed with us that because it was similar it was clearly infringing our trademark. Starting from the position where we have a registered trademark and 14 years of trading with the mark, we think we have a much stronger case than that to which they will admit.
How would anyone feel after years of building a business, in our case Brewsters, to find someone set up the same business, a brewery, with a similar sounding name. It is up to anyone new to any business who wants to create a brand to do their trademark checks. The trademark office will do a search which gives some guidance for a very small fee. We suppose with a 100 breweries starting a year and people with a lack of experience in this area it will happen again.
Aside from our existing trademark rights, we are aware that having two breweries with similar sounding names is asking for trouble especially when much business is done over the phone. While we may be miles apart, these days we all end up on wholesalers lists and on the internet. Additionally it is not just at the customer/selling end where there is confusion, we know of some similar sounding breweries that are always having mixed up deliveries from common suppliers. In the long run it will be much better for both breweries to have clear distinct branding and to build up their reputations that way with no confusion.
In some of the messages we have seen and received, it appears we have become the Goliath, “the suits”, “the twats” or the big nasty company bullying a small husband and wife company. Well just to put the record straight we are a wife and husband company brewing with help from our head brewer Richard Chamberlin. Not only that, we brew on a 10 barrel kit the same size as Morpeth. Brew Star’s offering of craft beer and lagers was very similar to us despite how new and “punk” they might have felt their beers were.
One thing does worry us and that is the recent method of brewery promotion. Where the brewery draws attention to itself and tries to align consumers to themselves by positioning the brewery as a victim of some sort of establishment figure whether it is a run in with the Portman Group, the local council or some other perceived obstacle to their rock and roll operation. We hope this issue does not go down the same route.
P.S. Amusingly, in one email we received (we are based in Grantham, birth place of Margaret Thatcher) the writer was sure that “protecting money was important to us because of the area’s right wing roots”.