In a lawsuit filed two weeks ago, Anchor Steam Brewery is seeking to enforce its rights to its “Steam” trademark for beer against City Steam Brewery in Connecticut.  The case between these two brewers had been milling around the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board but now that Anchor filed suit, they’re seeking to stay that action pending resolution of this lawsuit.

According to the allegations of this latest brewer on brewer trademark suit, Anchor may have been content to leave well enough alone when City Steam was only coming our of a brewpub, but…

“ANCHOR has become aware that defendants are using in commerce the confusingly similar mark “CITY STEAM” (the “CITY STEAM MARKS”) in connection with the promotion, marketing and sale of craft beer. ANCHOR has learned that defendant CITY STEAM BREWERY initially only made and sold its CITY STEAM beer for consumption on the premises of its brewpub in Hartford, Connecticut. ANCHOR has now become aware that defendants have recently begun making and selling beer under the CITY STEAM marks not only at their bar, but also bottled or casked for distribution and sale in interstate commerce.”

Another interesting twist is that in addition to the regular claims for trademark infringement, dilution, false designation and state claims for unfair competition, Anchor is also going after City for “Cyberpiracy” under 15 U.S.C. §1125(d) for registration and use of the domain name but not the use of its website (the two are mirror images).

This lawsuit, if it eventually leads to an opinion and written decision, could end up providing some valuable guidance in the myriad of trademark disputes going on in the craft beer world where breweries with registrations for fairly common words used in either their brewery names or in a beer name are continually sending cease and desist letters to other breweries when they find out that the same word is being used in a different combination of words for another beer or brewery.

You can find a copy of the complaint here.

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