If you follow anything related to beer (or just have facebook friends that drink) you’ve probably heard about this mess in the last 24 hours.
It all started yesterday when West Sixth Brewing Company (a small brewery in Lexington, Kentucky) posted this call to action against Magic Hat:
Magic Hat is a brewery originally based out of Vermont. While they have some craft roots, they’ve been bought and sold a couple times since 2010, and are now owned by a company called Cerveceria Costa Rica. They’re claiming that we intentionally copied their logo, and that has caused them “irreparable harm”, enough that they’re asking for not only damages but also all our profits up until this point (little do they know that well, as a startup company, there wasn’t any, oops!).
They even provide a link to the designer’s online portfolio for reference.
You can read the full details of the charge by Magic Hat right here.
This is what is known in legal circles as a “cease and desist” — a non-binding request by a lawfirm that you or your company stop doing something (pretty please) because it’s hurting their client or their business or infringing on their rights (in this case, rights to the intellectual property of the #9 logo). It’s also known by some other names including trolling, extortion, and bullshit. So obviously, this small brewery felt no urgency to comply with this bully tactic.
That was back in September of 2012.
So Magic Hat took the next step and filed a lawsuit [PDF] in Kentucky earlier this month, and it all blew up and hit social media with West Sixth’s petition. Even Magic Hat’s wikipedia page is “under attack“. It has created quite the phenomenon in the brewing enthusiast community, resulting in input both harsh and absurd.
Magic Hat responded to the shitstorm it had made by claiming that West Sixth were being a bunch of babies and going back on a deal they had already struck. In a move of brilliant playground-politics PR, they apparently published all of the previously private correspondence as evidence of this. Now who’s the doodie-head?
West Sixth scoffed at this claim and put it all out there.
So, let us get this straight. When you say you’re presenting “the truth”, the “truth” is that you are suing us in federal court because of the compass in our logo?
If that’s what it takes to resolve this, why didn’t you say that in response to our last letter, rather than waiting 3 months and then filing a lawsuit?
This whole thing has been highly entertaining, and I’m sure they can work it out without lawyers eventually, but I think the ultimate outcome is that a lot of people will never buy Magic Hat again while a lot more people have heard of West Sixth for the first time. It would be a wonderful irony if the lawsuit, rather than the “infringement” is what actually hurt sales.
In case you think I’m being too hard on Magic Hat here, they’ve done this kind of shit before. Apparently they just think that they own the concept of using numbers on beer.
It is our position that West Sixth has not only infringed on our trademarks, but has also taken steps to damage our brand. To that point, West Sixth has made some false statements in its social media campaign this week. While we don’t know whether those statements were intentional, the fact that they were made is not entirely surprising given the frenzied and negative campaign West Sixth enlisted in order to respond to the lawsuit.
Laughable. Your own frivolous lawsuit and your terrible PR is what damaged the brand, not a tiny brewery in Lexington.
Update #3 (5/29/2013):
Here’s what you might have missed over the long weekend. West Sixth did an “Ask Me Anything” (Q&A session) on Reddit on Friday and claimed that court could cost them a whopping six figures if it comes to that. Anyone that runs a small business knows this is not something they can easily spare.
Meanwhile Magic Hat is filing for even more money due to the “damage” caused by West Sixth (or the damage caused by Magic Hat’s own stupid tantrum all over social media, depending on your perspective.