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View Full Version : The Bell's/Northern Brewing fracas



Josh
03-23-2011, 10:10
There's been a recent dust-up in the micro and home-brewing worlds involing Bell's Two Hearted Ale and a homebrew kit from Northern Brewer called Three-Hearted Ale. The problem for Bell's is simply the name. Bell's doesn't seem to mind that it's intended to be a clone of their beer.

As for Northern, they and their supporters seemed to be miffed that Bell's didn't just call and ask them nicely to stop, but sent a letter written by a lawyer instead.

Here are some links on the issue:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/northern.brewer.ltd
http://www.bellsbeer.com/news/19-Official%20response%20to%20the%20Northern%20Brewer %20situation%20from%203/22/11
http://beernews.org/2011/03/bells-brewery-sends-cease-and-desist-letter-to-northern-brewer/

Any thoughts?

barturtle
03-23-2011, 11:18
Trademark protection is serious business. Just ask the little old ladies at church bake sales in KY about Derby Pie. Yes, legal action has been brought. Bayer lost the trademark of "Aspirin" in the US. Protect it or lose it.

CorvallisCracker
03-23-2011, 11:39
Believe it or not, Life Alert has registered "Help! I've fallen and can't get up!"

Which means if you fall and can't get up, you need to yell something else or they'll getcha!

OscarV
03-23-2011, 11:41
Remember when Bell's Oberon was called Solsun?

ILLfarmboy
03-23-2011, 13:14
There's been a recent dust-up in the micro and home-brewing worlds involing Bell's Two Hearted Ale and a homebrew kit from Northern Brewer called Three-Hearted Ale. The problem for Bell's is simply the name. Bell's doesn't seem to mind that it's intended to be a clone of their beer.

As for Northern, they and their supporters seemed to be miffed that Bell's didn't just call and ask them nicely to stop, but sent a letter written by a lawyer instead.

Here are some links on the issue:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/northern.brewer.ltd (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/northern.brewer.ltd)
http://www.bellsbeer.com/news/19-Official%20response%20to%20the%20Northern%20Brewer %20situation%20from%203/22/11 (http://www.bellsbeer.com/news/19-Official%20response%20to%20the%20Northern%20Brewer %20situation%20from%203/22/11)
http://beernews.org/2011/03/bells-brewery-sends-cease-and-desist-letter-to-northern-brewer/ (http://beernews.org/2011/03/bells-brewery-sends-cease-and-desist-letter-to-northern-brewer/)

Any thoughts?

Being new to beer when I started paying attention to labels and types it wasn't always clear where a propriatary name ended and a type began.

Looking at the name "Bell's Two Hearted Ale" I would have assumed "two hearted" referred to some characteristic and "Bell's" refers to this particular maker. The upshot being I would not be confused the "three-hearted" home brew clone with the company making the micro brew. But I buy types not brands, as I suspect most of us do. But, as Chuck has said many times, we are in the minority. And I suspect our perception and reading of labels is not the same as the average consumer.

Special Reserve
03-23-2011, 16:32
Trademark protection is serious business. Just ask the little old ladies at church bake sales in KY about Derby Pie. Yes, legal action has been brought. Bayer lost the trademark of "Aspirin" in the US. Protect it or lose it.

Back more than 40 years ago in Ruth, MI my mother started a church group called "Weight Watchers". It didn't take too long before a letter from a law firm representing Weight Watchers arrived to cease and desist.

How they found out I'll never know.

Trade marks are taken very seriously.

craigthom
03-23-2011, 16:51
Trademark protection is serious business. Just ask the little old ladies at church bake sales in KY about Derby Pie. Yes, legal action has been brought. Bayer lost the trademark of "Aspirin" in the US. Protect it or lose it.

Aspirin is a bad example. The trademark was confiscated by the U.S. government, as well as the rest of their assets, during World War I. They voluntarily gave up the trademark "Heroin".

Escalator is a better example.

But, yes, trademark is too serious a business for nice letters. Cease and Desist letters are a necessary part of the protection process.

The beer is named after the fish on the label, not a style. Its style is what I would call American IPA. I had one this afternoon.

bonneamie
03-23-2011, 19:12
Bell's favors a literary approach to naming. I'm sure the Two Hearted Ale is named after the story by Hemmingway, The Big Two Hearted River, which in turn is named after a river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Likewise, Bell's Oberon named after a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream (about which I have a funny story ...)

OscarV
03-24-2011, 02:38
Bell's Oberon named after a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream (about which I have a funny story ...)



Please Madam do tell.:cool:

bonneamie
03-24-2011, 04:18
A story for you, Oscar:
Charlevoix, MI has a boat parade called "Venetian Night" in the summer and one of the boats in the parade was named Oberon. My cousin went to the bar after the parade to check out the sailors and met one from that boat. She commented on the boat being named after a fairy. His manliness was impugned and he indignantly told her it was named after a BEER! :grin:

unclebunk
03-24-2011, 06:11
A story for you, Oscar:
Charlevoix, MI has a boat parade called "Venetian Night" in the summer and one of the boats in the parade was named Oberon. My cousin went to the bar after the parade to check out the sailors and met one from that boat. She commented on the boat being named after a fairy. His manliness was impugned and he indignantly told her it was named after a BEER! :grin:

That's very funny. I can just imagine the guy's face when she informed him of the fairy connection.

squire
03-24-2011, 08:22
At least he was the King of the Faries. Come to think of it that doesn't quite sound right either.

OscarV
03-24-2011, 12:00
His manliness was impugned and he indignantly told her it was named after a BEER! :grin:

Oh for God's sake, sounds like a beer drinker.

Umm, except for the beer drinking members of SB.com of course.:o

pepcycle
03-24-2011, 12:20
Many of Northern Brewer's Clone Kits are clever plays on the well known names of commercial beers.
Does Bell's think someone might mix them up?

If that's the case, How?
The guy who buys the kit, knows he's buying a beer "like" Two Hearted Ale. When he serves it, he says, "Its like Two Hearted Ale", a compliment to Bells.

Seems that other breweries might get upset when they see this book, http://www.northernbrewer.com/brewing/clone-brews-szmatulski.html, but they don't.

Why aren't other breweries upset by Sierra Madre and Phat Tyre, obvious plays on commercial beers.

Bell's may be more crotchety than their image suggests.

cowdery
04-03-2011, 12:05
I'm sorry to see Northern caved. They should have called Bell's bluff.

Russellc
04-04-2011, 13:47
I'm sorry to see Northern caved. They should have called Bell's bluff.

Never understood what all the excitment was about. I suppose taste is something that varies from one to another. I always thought Bell's two hearted Ale tasted like an old sour sponge anyway. Obviously, many disagree.

russellc