Voodoo Brewery Changes Beer Name By Dipping It In Snark In Response To Pitt Trademark C&D

from the mission accomplished? dept

Snark is a wholly underrated tool for dealing with trademark bullies. While we’ve seen it employed in the past, the victim of trademark bullying turning the tables on the bully with humor is something that still is far too rare. One brewery recently showed exactly how this is done.

Voodoo Brewery has been selling its H2P IPA since 2014, with a can label that nods towards the University of Pittsburgh, where the brother of the brewery’s founder went to school. It was only in late 2017 that the school sent out a cease and desist letter, claiming trademark infringement.

Voodoo started selling H2P in its original can in 2014. The beer grew in popularity and was twice featured on Pitt’s campus after its release. Then, in October, Pitt called Voodoo and asked it to cease and desist distributing the “H2P” IPAs with the school’s trademarked image, font and phrase. Voodoo released the newly designed cans a few weeks ago and they sold out in a couple of days.

Voodoo’s chief executive office, Matteo Rachocki, said that he and others at Voodoo were surprised at Pitt’s cease and desist request, since the beer was on the market for three years prior.

“We had been invited on campus to pour the beer twice, so we had just kind of assumed that we had their blessing,” Rachocki said.

That obviously wouldn’t hold up as any kind of a legal argument, although one wonders what exactly explains the delay in Pitt’s enforcement. The beer was not only known to the school, but had been displayed on campus, I assume specifically because of the tie in with the school. That sounds like it should have been an awesome example of a school understanding that the education and alcohol sectors are not common marketplaces, and working to support an alumnus. That possibility is now gone, with the school taking the strong arm route.

Well, it doesn’t appear that Voodoo will be deprived of the last laugh, even as it complies with Pitt’s C&D.

Rachocki met with Pitt officials Jan. 22 to work out a deal that would allow Voodoo to use Pitt trademarks. Rachocki said the new design for the can labels was on the conference room table when Pitt officials came to meet at the brewery. He said he presented the cans to make University officials aware of the brewery’s plan for the IPA if they couldn’t secure rights to Pitt’s trademarks. After an initially encouraging meeting in January, Rachocki said Pitt stopped responding to his emails.

The new cans still feature Pitt’s trademark blue and gold color scheme, but that’s where any allusions to Pitt end. The cans now read “NON-TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT ALMA MATER IPA” with no other Pitt-related images.

The name refers both to the bullying Pitt did, as well as the fact that alumni work at Voodoo Brewery. Frankly, that’s not a good look for Pitt in the public, but it’s a wonderful example of how far a little snark can go in responding to trademark bullying.

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Companies: pitt, voodoo brewery

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Comments on “Voodoo Brewery Changes Beer Name By Dipping It In Snark In Response To Pitt Trademark C&D”

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30 Comments
Get off my cyber-lawn!says:

Re: Pitt

I’m guessing this question sums up their concern….some idiot (not the commenter) would get wasted on beer, injure someone and the school would be sued because…the school “allowed” their name to be associated and also because…reasons.

Doesn’t make a lick of sense, but welcome to our civil court system.

Sok Puppettesays:

Re: Pitt

Maybe the school doesn’t want to be associated with drunks, since they tend to be kind of a problem on a college campus.

I looked at the original artwork, and it could absolutely lead you to believe the school endorsed the beer. Licensing the trademark WOULD be endorsing the beer.

This is a case where the school was totally in the right from a common sense point of view. I’m not sure about the legalities.

Uriel-238says:

"associated with drunks"

I’m pretty sure drunk behavior is proscribed on the campus proper. Most Bacchanalic (Dionysian) orders drink on their own grounds.

If it’s a severe enough problem that this is the concern, they could preclude students at the college from drinking entirely as a provision for attending.

Sok Puppette you seem to believe the school is already identified as party campus, and that won’t change whether or not a given brew features its colors.

Anonymous Anonymous Cowardsays:

Hydrogen squared Pittsburgh?

The picture in the linked article does not display H2P. Not being a Pitt fan, what the hell does H2P mean anyway, and why would Pitt trademark it?

Next question is when will Pitt invite ‘NON-TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT ALMA MATER IPA’ to campus. I like IPA’s, the more hops the better, at least for me. They make good, flavorful, natural preservatives, but the flavorful part is more important to me. I don’t have to try and transport it from England to India in very slow boats.

Pixelationsays:

Re:

“Isn’t the whole point of IPA that it does Not have the hops taste? “

The original point of IPA was that it had a lot of hops added to the beer to help it survive the long, non-refrigerated trip from England to India. These days, IPA’s have a lot more flavor and aroma from the hops as well as the strong bitterness it’s always had.

Uriel-238says:

This reminds me of a card game

Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond was a game that played on the old spy-fiction trope of telling the spy-in-the-deathtrap the master plan before leaving him for dead.

MGM objected to the allusion to James Bond (there was one, high-point value spy, Mr. Bond. among a plethora of other super-spies.)

The second print was James Ernest’s Totally Renamed Spy Game with double the deck size (110 cards from 55). Apparently, an again-renamed version is on Kickstarter.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Lawyers gotta keep those retainers.
IP law is blistering hot & if you tell the brain damaged in power all the money they are losing they scream burn the heretics!!!

Then they managed to piss off the community, look like fscking morons, then have to spend on PR to fix their name when they could have easily avoided it & earned mindshare by ignoring the lawyer & not being a prick.

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