Monday, January 18, 2016

Sober Thoughts

It's funny the things that potter through my brain during my annual month of boozeless existence. Quick side note, I generally don't refer to it as 'dry January' because I am not doing this because of the ridiculous machinations of Alcohol Concern or some other bunch of neo-Prohibitionists, by the time the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year period is over I have drunk way too much and feel like crap, so I take some time off. I still go to my favourite watering holes, I just drink some diet form of soda. Anyway, that's not the point of my post today.

One of the things that has pottered through my head of late is the lie that is the public image of the brewing industry as a boy scout jamboree writ large and with added kegs of beer, a vocal cheer squad of bloggers, raters, advocates, and allied industries in the background, singing a chorus of whatever the beer version of kumbaya is.

While there is great bonhomie amongst the brewers themselves, I find it really disturbing when brewing companies (and let's not get so soft headed as to forget that craft beer is an industry, and its processes are largely at an industrial scale) start suing other brewing companies for perceived infringements on their trademarks or intellectual property. My ire is particular raised when brewing companies try to lay claim to the common nomenclature of beer culture as somehow being theirs.

There are, in my opinion a set of concepts and ideas which simply cannot be trademarked in all good faith. Things like beer styles, such as hellesperceived logo similarities, or even the common brewing terms 'imperial' or 'session' are not worth suing over in my opinion. I have no problem if a brewing company wants to make predominately session strength beers, in fact I support that as an avid drinker of lower gravity beers. However, the idea of session was not invented by any one brewing company, it belongs to the drinking people of the world. It is we who have decided, through common use and tradition, what constitutes a session beer. The use of the term 'session' in a beer name is simply an indicator to the consumer of the expected strength of the beer in the glass, just as 'imperial' tells me to expect something big and boozy.

Looking at the bigger picture, it seems to me that such legal wranglings actually do more to harm the independent brewing industry as a whole. Litigation when there is a real, clear, infringement of a company's intellectual property within their market is one thing, but I would hate to see any of my local breweries attempting to sue a company where they do no business. Such behaviour would just incur the rancour of drinkers in that locality, and ultimately portray the brewing company doing, or threatening, legal action as a bunch of jumped up tossers. It's kind of like those big multinational brewing companies that sue family owned breweries in an entirely different country because their beer has the same name, though different spelling, as a brand of low grade beer brewed by said big boy.

Isn't craft beer supposed to be the antithesis of big beer?

1 comment:

  1. The story of Sriracha hot sauce and its lack of trademark is an interesting contrast.

    The great tragedy I see is that under current law it is very hard to take a relaxed approach - if you are not agressive defending IP, it is relatively easy for others to tie you up in the courts with trademark claims of their own. Congress needs to revise IP laws, but it is too paralyzed and lacking intellectual heft.


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