Another beer brand brouhaha for lawyers

Alf is chuffed to hear that a group representing independent brewers is taking on DB Breweries over the right to use a generic beer term.

Notwithstanding DB’s economic importance in the Tararua district – they run the Tui brewery just up the road from here in Pahiatua – the buggers deserve to get their comeuppance on the matter of “radler”.

The heavyweight brewer has flexed its muscle and stopped micro-brewer Green Man from using the term “radler” on one of its beers. DB says it trademarked the name in 2003.

According to Radio NZ –

The Society of Beer Advocates, says the term ‘radler’ originates in Germany and came about in the 1920s when cyclists began stopping off for a beer and lemonade.

Secretary Greig McGill says they believe the term is generic, as is stout or draught.

Alf reported on the prospect of a scrap a few months ago, when he said DB Breweries had bought itself a fight with beer buffs on the matter of radler.

Next bloody thing we know, DB will be wanting protected use of words like beer, ale, lager and pilsner.

If this bullshit had been reported on 1 April, Alf would have laughed it off as a jape.

But the corporate bullies at DB have a track record for this sort of nonsense, as Stuff recalls.

It made a similar move about two years ago when it instructed several breweries to stop using the term “summer ale”. The High Court eventually blocked DB’s claim for exclusive rights to the name.

Looks like the lawyers are back in business.

Alf notes that DB has whistled in Simpson Grierson to keep SOBA at bay.

A Declaration of Invalidity has already been filed by SOBA, which reports –

In a cynical, but widely predicted move designed to maximise the distance from May’s negative publicity, DB has waited until the very last day possible to defend its trademarking of ‘radler’, the name of a recognised beer style.

On Friday 10th July, the last day permissible, DB’s lawyers, Simpson Grierson, submitted a counterstatement to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), registering the brewer’s intention to contest the Declaration of Invalidity filed by SOBA’s patent attorneys James & Wells Intellectual Property.

What happens now?

– SOBA’s attorneys James & Wells now have up to two months to submit evidence to IPONZ.

– After this evidence has been filed DB’s lawyers have two months to file evidence in support of their claim that ‘radler’ is not a generic term. – James & Wells then have a further month for a right of reply before a formal hearing at IPONZ, adjudicated by an IPONZ Assistant commissioner.

SOBA’s lawyer, Ceri Wells of James & Wells has already stated an intention to present his evidence as soon as possible, but DB’s inclination for maximum delay suggests the case could drag on for some months yet.

More detail about the nature of the claim and the case in support of it can be found on the SOBA post cited above.

For an outfit like DB, the legal bills will be small beer. Here’s hoping SOBA has a sufficient war chest.

One Response to Another beer brand brouhaha for lawyers

  1. Greig says:

    We’re lucky enough to have Ceri Wells acting for us pro bono. Won’t help if we lose of course, we’ll be done for costs, which will force us to dis-incorporate, but since this is the sort of thing we exist for, we’d be a bit useless if we didn’t put our bollocks on the line here, right?

    Nice coverage. 🙂


    Greig McGill
    Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) Inc.

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