Friday, 10 September 2010

"Real Brewers Don't Sue Each Other..."

Thus spake Brendan Moylan, owner of the eponymous brewery and restaurant in Novato, California, following the news that fellow CA brewer Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey based in San Marcos, had filed suit contending breach of copyright over Moylan's use of a stylised Celtic Cross as a bar tap handle. Lost Abbey claims the design is too close to their own, and since they share markets, could cause confusion. Moylan says he has been using the design for some 15 years, and that "...first use is first use, and arrogance is arrogance."

Spot the difference? The tap handle in the middle is actually an ancient Celtic cross uncovered in the churchyard of St. Teath's parish church in Cornwall, in the late 19th century. Maybe the parish council should be suing Lost Abbey... (NB: I 'borrowed' the tap handle pics from

Tomme Arthur is a brewer who doesn't get much love among craft brewing fans, with a reputation as an arsey and difficult customer who loves himself a bit too much. His beers are usually regarded as tickerific, however, and can be found in the UK these days. He also popped up at the last Wetherspoon's Beer Fest, but has baggage for releasing under-conditioned and poor quality beers, and then not taking remedial action to resolve complaints. All of this has been exhumed on the ticker sites as drinkers queue up to take sides. Some wags have asked if he intends to sue any brewer who releases flat beer, while Moylan's legal team have noted that the Celtic Cross has been used for many hundreds of years.

Seems to me that if you were in a pub with both, you wouldn't order by tap handle, you'd speak to the bartender or check the board before ordering, so it all sounds a bit pointless. Arthur says that their handle is "iconic", and that it's a focal point as they don't spend on advertising. Seems to me a lawsuit is one way to get your name out there for free...


EyeChartBrew said...

No one orders draught Lost Abbey beer. It's all about the over-priced, under-carb'ed, "limited"-this and "über-rare"-that bottles.

Would love to see Tarthur the Tyrant of Twatsilvania go down in flames over this, but most likely it'll be settled with a court-mandated "live and let live" clause.

On the other hand, this does nothing to help his wonky rep, so that's a win in my book.

Tim Burkley said...

There's additional information on LA's side of the suit here:

FWIW, in this case it does look like Moylan's copied Lost Abbey's handle design and basically said they can can steal any design they want because they used a (different) cross first.

Not cool in my view. Even if Tomme is a giant tool (which I don't think he is), real brewer's shouldn't steal from other brewer's.

Sid Boggle said...

Thanks guys. I like the idea that this guy provokes extremes of opinion. And I hope Moylan's kick his arse...