How to solve the London brewery trademark disputes

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in English Beer | 9 Comments

Weird Beard Camden BearD – soon to be removed? (from here as well, possibly)

Trademark disputes. They just keep on coming. Ever since the apocryphal Bass employee spent a night’s gainful employment shivering-in the New Year outside the patent office, different groups of beer-makers have come up with similar ideas for naming their brown foaming liquids. Recently, ‘cease and desist’ letters have been pinging around with more frequency than ever – remember the easy-to-pick-sides-for disputes of the past? Budweiser versus Budvar? I think we’ll look back on that as the golden age of knowing who to root for.

As we hurtle into 2014, tensions are straining in the other capital. Following Camden Town’s Christmas Eve effort to trademark the term ‘Camden’ to prevent Weird Beard releasing a beer named ‘Camden BearD’ [sic] – the gloves are off between the “aw shucks, thanks for lending us those kegs the other day” rosy world of ‘craft’ beer. Breweries merely a few years old are flinging the litigation about, to protect their intellectual property. As Camden Town can’t build hotels on what they own, they can resort only to stopping others from using that particular C-Word (Brodies are keeping quiet about Camden Town Brown IPA).

Leaving aside whether people would look at a bottle of Camden BearD and think it had anything to do with the Camden Town Brewery, can the hounds of litigation really be unleashed to ring-fence an entire London Borough? And if they can, is that right? There are now eight hundred breweries in London, so naming disputes are inevitably going to keep on occurring, as the beer-makers clack their beaks at each other like so many co-habiting nesting seabirds. But, having given this some thought; there is a possible solution at hand:-

– Each London brewery immediately changes its name to that of the nearest tube station. It’s that simple. Where more than one brewery inhabits a stop, the one that opened later is offered one of the brewery-free tube stops. These can also be traded, like a colossal board game.

As the oldest brewery in town, Fullers are first up, becoming Stamford Brook. Meantime switch to Cutty Sark Brewing Co (which might actually be a better name). Zero Degrees become Blackheath, which I think is a national rail station (I’m only doing this with Google Maps). Twickenham Fine Ales can stay as Twickenham, unless they want to become Strawberry Hill Fine Ales. And so on. Wouldn’t you like a schooner of Bermondsey London Sour? Bethnal Green Great Eastern IPA? Hackney Wick Black Betty? Cockfosters Saison Grisette Lemongrass? (Partizan having ‘relocated’ following Kernel’s claim to Bermondsey).

It could work. What of the two protagonists in this latest David vs David disagreement? Well, Weird Beard would become Boston Manor – surely no-one could have an objection to Boston Manor BearD? Certainly not Camden Town, as their nearest station is…er…Kentish Town West.


  1. mick
    January 3, 2014

    Might be worth avoiding all three breweries for a while and drink from those that can get along!

  2. Martyn Cornell
    January 3, 2014

    What about BrewDog’s new Brixton Porter?

  3. Richard
    January 3, 2014

    Does the Northern Line terminate near Aberdeen?

  4. James
    January 4, 2014

    Not sure there are 800 breweries in London are there ?!?

    The whole dispute is ridiculous and as you say, CTB are very squarely based in Kentish Town!

  5. James Tulloch
    January 4, 2014

    Utterly pathetic from Camden Town. I’ve never thought much of their beers anyway, so my boycotting of them won’t make much of a difference anyway. This has more than a whiff of the Red Bull vs Redwell nonsense from last summer –

  6. Simon
    January 5, 2014

    Going to have to call [citation needed] on that 800 breweries figure. Des de Moor currently puts the figure at 45.

  7. Andy Skene
    January 7, 2014

    I have been brewing for Pitfield Brewery for the last couple of decades. Pitfield had the sense to name itself after a London Road, so no disputes so far. We did have a bit of bother with a (now erstwhile) bigger brewery in Wandsworth, who informed us that we could not call our porter London Porter. The outcome was the understanding that you cannot trademark a region. So we were free to call our porter’ Pitfield London Porter’, and that other brewery , or anybody for that matter, could call their porter’ London Porter’ too. The name of the place denotes s style not a claim to a certain piece of geography. This all happened a few years ago, so I am not sure if the trademark law has changed or not.

  8. Andy Skene
    January 7, 2014

    Apologies for the spelling error in the second last line. It should read: ‘denotes a style’.

  9. Richard
    January 7, 2014

    That’s fascinating Andy, so I assume ‘Camden’ could be viewed the same way as ‘London’ in your example? Although, the crucial difference could be that in this latest example, the disputed term is the name of the actual brewery rather than a beer name. That other producer in your example might have had a different riposte if you’d come up with Pitfield Wandwsorth (or whatever the actual brewery name is, I think we all know to whom you are referring)

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