Trademark Dispute Moves Georgetown Brewing to Rename 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter

June 15th, 2010 · 37 Comments · General Beer News, Washington Breweries

Thanks to jfkpl on Flickr

A trademark dispute between Georgetown Brewing and Magic Hat Brewing Company (owned by the same holding company that owns Pyramid) has led to Georgetown changing the name of their 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter. Not that this is a huge deal, but it’s unfortunate that owning a trademark for a beer called “#9″ makes a business feel entitled to “protect their trademark” by asking all beers with “9” in their name to change. It’s a twisted world we live in. I wish it was as easy as people just making beer, naming it whatever the hell they wanted, and making customers happy. I think I’ll go find myself a Georgetown Porter today or tomorrow.

Dear Georgetown Customer,

This is a letter to notify you that we are renaming 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter. Georgetown Porter is the same recipe as 9LB Porter – the beer has not changed. This change is the result of a trademark dispute with Magic Hat Brewing Co. (now owners of Pyramid) over the use of the name 9LB Porter and trademark infringement issues associated with that name.

To summarize, Magic Hat’s flagship beer is called #9. Alan Newman, founder of Magic Hat, contacted us one year ago and told us that our use of the name 9LB Porter was trademark infringement and that we should not have been issued a federal trademark in the first place. His goal in contacting us was to reach some compromise and avoid litigation on both ends.

After much discussion, Alan agreed that we could keep the name but we would have to change the label and use the spelled out word “NINE” in place of the numeric “9” so that there would be less confusion with the brands. We were ok with this and had even come up with a number of different label designs. Where we disagreed, however, is that Alan wants to own the brand name 9LB Porter and then license it back to us for no fee. He argued that this was the only way he could protect his trade name against any future trademark infringement
issues with any other brewery. The license he offered to us was free and would not limit our use of the mark (other than not being able to use the numeric “9”).

After much deliberation between Roger and me, and also after discussions with Scott Horrel, owner of the 9LB Hammer, we decided that we could not in good conscience grant someone else ownership of the name 9LB Porter. Scott said it was our decision to make, but Roger and I ultimately felt that the brand does not rightfully belong to us to sign over to some other brewery. We really feel like it belongs to the 9LB Hammer and don’t want some other brewery owning it. In all fairness to Magic Hat and Alan Newman, they did make an effort to compromise. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t agree on the name-ownership issue.

So with that… we’re changing the name of 9LB Porter. It will now be called Georgetown Porter. A new label will be introduced with the hammer and fist from the 9LB Hammer. We will phase out the old label and all of the marketing items. That is our agreement with Magic Hat.

We want to thank Scott Horrell for all of his support throughout this dispute. He’s had our back on this, so thanks to Scott. Also, thanks to all of you for being customers of Georgetown Brewing. Without you, we would have a lot of beer to drink by ourselves.

Sincerely,
Manny Chao
Georgetown Brewing Company

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37 Comments so far ↓

  • Kaiser

    I’ll add that isn’t all on Magic Hat. It’s on the way our country has trademark laws setup. The fact that there is any fraction of a legal argument for Magic Hat to claim “we’re just protecting our trademark” anytime a brewery uses “9” in a beer name is just BS.

    Also for those not familiar, the 9LB Porter was named after a kick-ass bar called the 9LB Hammer in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle:
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/9-lb-hammer-seattle

  • Boycott Magic Hat Brewing Company... - Home Brew Forums

    [...] Beer News quoted the entire email that was sent out by Georgetown in their article on this. Seattle Beer News article about 9 LB Porter being renamed. To me, one of the key points of the email is the quote [...]

  • gcm

    magic hat owns the number 9 as much as microsoft owns ones and zeros.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/microsoft-patents-ones-zeroes,599/

  • Scott

    Just because Magic Hat ruined Pyramid doesn’t means it has to ruin everybody else.

  • Brad

    You know, Baltika has been around longer than Magic Hat, and brews a #9 beer. Perhaps we can encourage them to vigorously defend their rights…

  • Alan Moen

    This is the way the world works, unfortunately. I used to work for Columbia Winery, which changed its name in the late 1970’s from Associated Vintners. Then Chateau Ste. Michelle came out with its second label, Columbia Crest. Too bad Columbia hadn’t trademarked the name (there was also a sportswear company by the same name in Oregon, etc. ), but they decided they couldn’t fight US Tobacco-owned Ste.Michelle, so for years people thought our wines were theirs. At the time, that was a great deal for them, but not for us.

  • Magic Hat notice leads to Georgetown beer name change | SuperBrewing.com

    [...] (Georgetown, WA) – As more craft breweries open, more beers are created . . . and more trademarks are filed. Uh oh. More beery legal issues reared their ugly head to the surface today as Georgetown Brewing formally announced that it changed the name of its 9# Porter (pronounced 9 Pound Porter) to Georgetown Porter. The reason? Upon discovery of Georgetown filing a trademark for the name, Magic Hat got in touch with the brewery asking them to change the name. Per the Georgetown email via Seattle Beer News: [...]

  • Magic Hat notice leads to Georgetown beer name change | SuperBrewed.com

    [...] More beery legal issues reared their ugly head to the surface today as Georgetown Brewing formally announced that it changed the name of its 9# Porter (pronounced 9 Pound Porter) to Georgetown Porter. The reason? Upon discovery of Georgetown filing a trademark for the name, Magic Hat got in touch with the brewery asking them to change the name. Per the Georgetown email via Seattle Beer News: [...]

  • Alex Dittmar

    I don’t get it. So, they claim any use of the number nine is potentially confusing to the consumer and infringes on their trademark? 9LB is not the same as #9. I can see if Georgetown was using the pound sign, but they weren’t.

    I’m guessing Manny & Roger decided it wasn’t worth the money to fight it, but it just doesn’t seem like Magic Hat had a case. It just sets a bad precedent in my mind of more of these things to come.

    I think my next beer will be my 999 stout.

  • Pat

    i refuse to drink dogfish head (i stand firmly with russian river) and now I’ll never drink another magic hat (#9 sucks anyway)

  • wonton soup

    Won’t stop me from calling it 9 pound porter.

  • Vince

    Well, you can view it two ways:
    1) Magic Hat is way over-stepping their bounds by picking on a smaller corporation without the resources to fight a protracted trademark case.
    2) Manny and Roger should be proud that their beer is popular enough to solicit such interest from a large company.

    But I think I’m done drinking anything from Magic Hat – or Pyramid.

  • pdub

    Pat,

    Please explain to your issues with DFH. Did they have a copyrght issue with RR? Seems weird considering they are friends now.

  • FourBeerMilky

    I was excited that Magic Hat finally made it to my area, but I can’t really support a company who starts playing the trademark game. They’re basically implying that we as consumers can’t tell the difference and pushing around the little guy. I’ll drink the rest in my fridge, but no more Magic Hat or Pyramid after that. Very disappointing.

  • gcm

    next time you go to a bar to order the former 9 lb porter, ask for ‘magic hat sucks’ georgetown porter.

  • el ray

    Don’t they call that kowtow-ing ??? I can tell the difference between 9LB hammer and #9. I’ve never seen magic hat, but i’m sure the labels are quite different. Its like starbucks trying to lay
    claim to the Rat City Rollergirls logo no?

    Go figure.

  • DrWernerKlopek

    This is really stupid. Magic Hat should have been brought into a court and forced to argue their case. Too bad Manny and Co did not have the resources to fight this. They basically just caved in. Next thing you know they will have to rename their Manny’s and Roger’s, you know because some dudes named Roger and Manny trademarked their names. “For only $1 billion I will let you use it.” Watch Georgetown fold like a cheap lawn chair. Georgetown makes good beer, too bad they don’t have the spine or money to protect whatever they want to call it.

  • blackhook

    i think the Magic Ass Hats should sue “Plan 9 From Outer Space” – because of course everyone confuses wacky cult flicks with mediocre beers…

    and i love this – from a recent review from Beer Advocate of Magic Hat #9:

    “Aroma is weak. Smells like copyright enforcement…”

  • Kaiser

    blackhook – that review is fantastic….

  • slugsgomoo

    When your beers aren’t good enough to stand up on their own merits, you have to use asinine legal tactics to cause harm to your competition.

    Too bad those douches didn’t spend their time, money & effort on actually brewing a beer that’s worth drinking.

    I’m going to have to give the Georgetown Porter a shot now, I never get it because if it’s on tap there’s usually Red Chopper, which is my favorite WA beer. :D

  • RGardner

    Next up, Engine House #9 brewpub in Tacoma? Much closer than 9LB. I’m pretty sure their usage predates Magic Hat.

  • Geoff (the other one)

    Hey “Dr” DrWernerKlopeck…what the hell are you a doctor of ’cause it’s obvious not law.

    Manny and Roger are no babes in the woods. Both have business backgrounds, as witnessed by the pretty amazing success of Georgetown in a difficult sector and a crowded market.

    I’m certain that they did a prudent and rational analysis of the legal situation and determined that escalating into litigation was not worth the risk of losing their business. And as a consumer, I’m happy they are focusing on what is important.

    After all, if Magic Hat dedicated half the resources they spend on marketing and trademark protection to making beer, their product wouldn’t all taste like piss.

    Boycott Magic Hat and Pyramid!

  • Beaux Bowman

    Doctor: It is not black and white nor easy. Trademark law is very specific and complicated. Manny nor Roger rolled over, they made a well informed business decision.

  • Black Raven Brewing Loses Trademark Case vs. Ravenswood Winery

    [...] legal system continues to amaze and befuddle me. Just a week after we heard news that Georgetown Brewing is renaming their 9LB Porter due to trademark issues, local upstart Black Raven Brewing just received news that they lost a [...]

  • PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS Announced!

    [...] Porter (many know it by another name) also received a large number of votes, contributing to Georgetown’s Best Brewer title. [...]

  • joe

    You cant even get magic hat in washington. Whats there problem?

  • the Beer Supporter

    Now they’re harassing a small brewery in Kentucky called West Sixth: https://www.facebook.com/westsixthbrewing

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    [...] This is the first thing that popped into my head. Then, I realized that there were actually 2 different companies owning and trying to protect the same brand (at separate times). They're probably thinking that they've paid a ton of money for the # 9 name, and now they have to make some money off of it. googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1364420449836-3'); [...]

  • Joe O

    Magic hat also asserts ownership of inverted 9 (aka 6) and ovals, or circles for that matter. They;r goign after a local brewery in Lexington, KY, called West 6th Brewery, located on …. West 6th Street

    http://www.westsixth.com/no-more-magic-hat/

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    [...] had a similar naming dispute with Georgetown Brewing forcing the brewery to change the name of the 9lb porter to the Georgetown Porter. Apparently if your beer has the number nine it is rife for a cease and [...]

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    [...] not the first time Magic Hat has flexed its legal muscle. Georgetown Brewing renamed its 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter after the numeric 9 was [...]

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    [...] not the first time Magic Hat has flexed its legal muscle. Georgetown Brewing renamed its 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter after the numeric 9 was [...]

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    [...] not the first time Magic Hat has flexed its legal muscle. Georgetown Brewing renamed its 9LB Porter to Georgetown Porter after the numeric 9 was [...]

  • Magic Hat Protects its Tricks. Rightfully So? | alainahouseknecht

    […] more interesting, this is not the first time Magic Hat has made such accusations.  In 2010, Georgetown Brewing of Seattle was forced to rename its “9 lb. Porter” to the “Georgetown Porter” after the number 9 was […]

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