We have serious David versus Goliath on our hands.
Magic Hat IP and Independent Brewers Corp. have filed a federal lawsuit against West Sixth Brewing Co., based in Lexington.
“Magic Hat seeks damages and injunctive relief under state and federal law to remedy the substantial infringement by West Sixth,” according to the complaint filed in the United States Circuit Court’s Eastern Division of Kentucky.
In non-legal terms, as West Sixth posted on its online petition against Magic Hat’s pricey lawsuit, “They’re claiming that we intentionally copied their logo, and that has caused them ‘irreparable harm’.”
Magic Hat claims West Sixth began selling beer, ale, and brewpub services in 2012 under trademarks and designs that closely resemble –and are confusingly similar – to Magic Hat’s #9 trademarks and designs.
Apparently, Magic Hat believes its customers are confused in buying West Sixth beer because of a perceived similarity between West Sixth’s logo, which has the numeral 6 on it and Magic Hat’s “#9” beer.
While we may not all be academic all-stars down here in Kentucky, we can tell the difference between the integers.
You can decide the level of logo similarity.
West Sixth doesn’t use the “#9,” which is the only logo element Magic Hat has registered.
West Sixth’s logo is its address – 501 West Sixth St. in Lexington.
Cerveceria has been on the move, challenging competing microbreweries via purchasing power and lawsuits.
The Costa Rican company recently bought numerous North American breweries including Canadian brand Labatt in deals totaling hundreds of millions.
Along with Magic Hat, Cerveceria owns Woodchuck Cider and Labatt beer.
Yeah, they are huge, and have victories on the legal front as well.
“This will be their forth or fifth disputed trademark against small breweries,” said West Sixth co-founder Brady Barlow.
“We found out over the weekend that they had filed a suit in district court and were not expecting this at all,” Barlow said.
West Sixth officials have yet to speak with Magic Hat Brewing Company owners, only their legal representatives. Barlow told me that he and West Sixth’s founders have made numerous attempts to contact Magic Hat and discuss the matter.
“You’d think you would be able to settle this over a beer … we aren’t trying to copy anyone. We are just trying to be West Sixth,” Barlow said.
“They’ve always gone after small breweries, and they’ve rolled over. We feel we are in the right but it will cost a huge amount to defend it.”
Will Kentucky rally for West Sixth?
West Sixth has asked its fans to respond in a petition against Magic Hat in hopes of stopping the lawsuit.
So far, fans have responded.
In fact, the petition website crashed due to traffic on Tuesday.
“We’ve got 4,000 people who have signed the petition, and if the site didn’t crash, we’d probably be around 7,000 or 8,000,” said Barlow.
Facebook and Twitter erupted with shares and tweets.
Most of the forum responses on BeerAdvocate.com – a popular beer lovers website – have been in favor of West Sixth as well. Magic Hat peaked at 100 on Google Trends’ search rate index two days ago, and has been hot since.
The bare bones of all this is a business founded by four Lexington guys is in a fight with a Costa Rican beverage giant.
Let’s see if Kentucky will rally behind one of its own.
West Sixth’s IPA took home our “Top Beer of 2012,” and was the primary motivation for looking at canning beer in the Beer-Can-Nomics series.
The Lexington beer makers have seen tremendous results via canning beer and getting involved with local community.
They’ve donated more than $10,000 to charities in one year.
West Sixth’s IPA is becoming a topic discussion not just by craft beer lovers, but by beer newbies who just can’t get enough of the citra–heavy India Pale Ale.
The company has tripled capacity, with another fermentation tank on the way, and has already shipped out 800,000 beers.
West Sixth is beginning to look into canning a third beer after recently shipping out its Amber Ales in can number two.
We’ll keep you posted as this suit works its way through the courts.