Sunday, 20 February 2011

Humourless Corporate Bastards

"Do a piece" said Rabidbarfly Glyn Roberts. He's highlighting the spat between global drinks monolith Diageo and Lovibonds Brewery of Henley, over the use of the number 69. Seems Diageo think that drinkers will somehow be confused if they see Lovibonds 69 IPA, and think that in fact, they are consuming Diageo's VAT 69 'brand' Scotch whisky. I'd be inclined to credit people with more sense, but I guess Diageo's lawyers might be on their uppers - never hurts to 'earn' a fee. Or maybe they've gone a while without threatening a much smaller business with trip to court, or agreement to change their 'branding'.

Whatever, it seems that Diageo's shysters missed their deadline to file suit, so subject to any appeal, Lovibonds may be free to pursue their own business growth without spurious and spiteful harassment from some miserable corporation.

That isn't the case for tiny Welsh Artisan Brewing Co, though. They've been operating since 2008, brewing a range of German-style beers in a small premises in Cardiff. Simon Doherty, the Aussie who set the place up, decided to trademark his beers, and ran afoul of the regulation which lumps beer and soft drinks in the same category. The application roused the ire of PepsiCo, who own a brand of juices originally from the US, called Naked Juice. They've decided that 'Barenaked' is close enough to threaten their brand and objected to the application, even though Simon's beers are only available either from the brewery, or at a few outlets in Cardiff, while Naked Juice appears to be on sale in the UK (as of September '07) in places like Waitrose, Starbucks and Whole Foods.

Simon has tried to clarify his application relates to beer and merchandise, but Poppsy Co won''t back down. There's a very clear and cold analysis of the situation here, but really, to me it's nonsensical, and just another example of a giant corporation flexing its muscles to get its way. Poppsy Co probably spends more on one Superbowl ad than Artisan has probably spent in brewing beer since their launch. I don't know how much they put behind Naked in the UK - perhaps they think a bit of free publicity generated by their objecting wouldn't hurt. That sort of thing can backfire.

Don't Poppsy Co credit the consumer with any sense? There's no attempt to pass off Barenaked Beer as anything other than what it is. The beer isn't likely to be appearing in the same markets as Naked Juice anytime soon. And what about Twickenham Brewing's Naked Ladies beer? That name is much closer to the juices? And what about the estate of William Burroughs? Surely The Naked Lunch might mislead the reader over wholesome fruit juice? And then perhaps Diageo could make sure Sham 69 can't get back together again - old punks might get confused.

I remember in the 80's, the Comsat Angels getting the same treatment from another bunch of miserable bastards, who made them change their name in the US to the CS Angels, in case music lovers thought somehow their spiky new-wave stylee was anything to do with global telecommunications.

You know, sometimes there's the letter of the law (and neither of these cases has been before the beak yet, so perhaps common sense prevails anyway), and there's the moral high ground, and both of these bullied brewers occupy that right now. Who's for a boycott campaign? I'll bring the music - it'll be Waiting For A Miracle...


rabidbarfly said...

Nice One sunshine.

arn said...

Thanks for highlighting the Artisan Brewing case. Pepsi Bastards.

EyeChartBrew said...

"Don't Poppsy Co credit the consumer with any sense?"

No. Nor do they give two shites about what consumer can or cannot be confused about. This has nothing to do with the consumers of the associated beers and/or sugary soda schwills.

It's all about the corporate world overly "protecting" a trademark in such a overreaching manner so as to preclude anyway from ever getting within 500' of their brand -- threatening, or otherwise.

rabidbarfly said...

The PoppsyCo/Artisian story just got airtime on BBC Breakfast.
These stories need more airtime, some big companies seem to think they should be able to get away with this sort of shit. I'm mean really, how many people are going to get ANY of these brands confused??? C**ts. I'm all for a boycott of these brands and I'll be getting some Artisian beers for the Welsh Beer Festival.

Sid Boggle said...

@Glyn: Will you have them for Sunday? I like that kind of solidarity!
@Todd: You're right, of course. Makes me seethe, though...

rabidbarfly said...

I've ordered them and I'm expecting them. I haven't heard otherwise from my supplier.

Phil said...

More quality bullshit from big corp. More the reason that I stand away, moved over to the wonderful world of craft beer.

I used to wonder that perhaps it's a domino effect, that if more people close in on their brands (big corp) that their position is more secure from other big corps.

But, now... thankfully, people can see past this and, can differentiate between what in this case is BEER and WATER. Ok, I can somewhat see a connection that beer is 90odd percent water, but there the connection ends.

Their, big Corp, "ire" and the ludicrous nature of these actions are seen for what they are, and then Big Corp wont have it's "quality position" of their companies undermined.

I for one, would advise that they are best served, working with these smaller businesses, and that would be way more profitable for both parties in the long run.

Again, a great post from the Boggle. Keep up the good work, and see you soon!