Left Hand Brewing may have just made the list of the U.S. top 50 craft brewers but DuClaw Brewing Company isn’t writing to congratulate them. In this lawsuit filed last Monday, DuClaw, which makes a Belgian white it calls Sawtooth and stout called Black Jack Stout wants a Maryland Federal Court to keep Left Hand from making two beers with similar names (or at least from calling them by similar names) Black Jack Porter and Sawtooth Ale.
The lawsuit alleges that DuClaw first used the Black Jack and Sawtooth marks in November of 1998 and obtained registration on May 21, 2002. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website shows DuClaw’s Black Jack Stout here and Sawtooth here.
The lawsuit claims that Left Hand has expanded into the state of Maryland with its Sawtooth and Black Jack brands and lacks common law rights to the trademarks in Maryland given DuClaw’s use of the marks in Maryland and its registration. A search for Left Hand’s marks doesn’t show any registration for Black Jack or Sawtooth, so common law rights that exist based on a use prior to the November 1998 or May 2002 dates might give Left Hand a defense – which is why DuClaw is saying what it’s saying about common law rights in Maryland. Also, the lawsuit says that DuClaw reached out to Left Hand with a cease and desist back in 2010, but that the parties were unable to resolve their dispute.
We’ll continue to follow the matter as it evolves because this case has the potential to create some case law that could serve as guidance for brewers to make some well informed business decisions and potentially avoid or successfully prosecute claims in the ever increasing number of cease and desist cases the craft beer boom is producing.