Inspection- Beer-y Interesting Controversy

by Ken Carman

  Have you noticed how some controversies morph and the drama eventually seems to become more drama queen?
 Have you noticed that maybe it’s serving those who do “battle” well: people are clicking on sites like mad, product is headed out the door even faster?
  Ever wonder if that was the plan by both sides all along?
  I don’t know if that’s true when it comes to the logo-legal snafu between West 6th Brewery in Lexington, Kentucky, and Magic Hat Brewing, once just Vermont but now owned by a conglomerate, but I do know I consider the argument stupid, inane and a waste of any court’s time.
  But maybe not a waste of company-time, and especially not a waste of lawyer time. Especially if slapping down a small, regional, upstart just satisfies bigger brew’s sense of sadism.
 OK, OK, that last comment was a tad unfair… perhaps. After all, they did try to work with West 6th. Kind of. Sort of. Depending upon whom you believe.
  But when it comes to wasting the court’s time, whomever dreamed this up, is making ambulance chasers almost look good when it comes to “wasting the court’s time.”
  You do know who pays for the court’s time, right? Us, obviously. So out the window goes the meme’ that it’s all the government’s fault: we need property and intellectual right’s laws. They need to be protected. Unless we want to live in a society without government: where competing corporations form hit squads… kind of like Mr. and Mrs. Jones… we need government and laws that protect both intellectual and physical property.
 How, when and how anal this should all be are the obvious questions.
 A few examples of “anal,” in my opinion…
 We don’t need anyone who takes a 6 and claims it’s close enough to sue over if you flip it upside down and turn it into a 9. “Close enough” because both logos use circles as frames: a common graphic artist’s method to attract the eye. “Close enough” because one has a star: nice and clear, the other far less visible in a different location. Then disregard a lot of weird squiggly lines and a bug at 4:30. Was the graphic artist’s studio infested? Oh, and disregard the pound sign only one of the logos has.
  Here are the two logos side by side, courtesy beerpulse.com
magic-hat-vs-west-sixth
 So much alike they could be photocopies, right? Of course not. Not even close. Take out the squiggly lines and a weird bug-like thing, and the pound symbol, use the same numbers and you might have more of a case.
  Debate over this got heated when yours truly returned the splatter that was tossed in his face over disagreeing with those who felt the logos were too much alike on a beer Facebook page.
  Sigh. You know, I keep saying I hate debating on Facebook. It’s a terrible venue for debate: a venue best served by a sentence or two and supportive comments for FB friends. Otherwise, it can turn relatives, and friends who met outside of FB before joining, into enemies. But no one has to take overly nasty and arrogant comments from others.
  The gist of those who feel this is a big deal is, to start with, that anyone who thinks it’s nonsense doesn’t understand laws related to companies and their property, especially property that identifies their products. And, at least one poster, basically, kept finding ways to tell those who disagree that they should just shut up.
 Anyone who thinks I would put up with that, especially when directed at me: personally, to quote the second greatest philosopher who never lived: Bugs, “You don’t know vehwee well.”
 The first best is Calvin and his mental sidekick: Hobbes. Jay Ward characters… a close third.
  Well, I got a bit nasty, I admit. As with all such things the dynamic changes once you make them understand you can stroke your phallic: lightsaber rhetoric, just as much as they can. Or, to be crass: show them you won’t back down if they insist on having a dick-off.
 Sorry. That’s what is essentially is, and it’s no accident most often it’s males, but not always.
 But back to the main questions here. How similar are the two logos? Does it really confuse customers? Do all forms of those logos confuse them, or just one or two: like tap handles? And even if they are a little too close, does a small, regional, brewery who sells mostly in their own state and a small portion of state or two in their backyard(s), really have that much affect on the sales of a far more national brewery? That last one is, unfortunately, not really as much a legal concern. But certainly a concern for those of us who think this is a stink that seems unnecessary… unnecessary except to lawyers who want to make a buck. Well, maybe more than “a buck.”
 Personally I don’t believe Magic Hat’s claim about a whole bunch of customers being confused, but if it is true they should begin to wonder about some of their customers. Anyone who confuses a 6 for a 9, thinks a small hard to see star inside a 9 is just like a big one outside the 6, and also misses both the pound symbol on one and all the weird, drug-addled-like, squiggly lines that seem to include a bug for some reason, certainly has discernment problems: at best.
  This column usually deals with politics, religion and social issues. I do enjoy going off those philosophical farms occasionally. But the debate actual had a rather heated political element to it.
  You know all those folks who think everything that goes wrong is government’s fault? The same ones who act like all business is exactly the same and mock those who are bothered by the fact some big businesses seem to think their mission is to stomp all over, to crush, small business.
 Yup, that came up when I mentioned that big companies suing small companies over gunk like this this had, perhaps intentionally, helped kill small companies in the past.
  Example: when Chrysler built the PT Cruiser it looked like an old Chevy Panel Van. GM does nothing. A few years later Chevy (GM) built a car that looked a lot like, well, a PT Cruiser. Chrysler does nothing. But when Avanti, a tiny company that was in Villa Rica, Georgia, said they were going to build the Studebaker SUV that kind of looked like the Hummer they got sued by the provider of their drive-trains: GM.
  Think of this like WalMart suing local Ma and Pa’s Adult Diaper store because they have an inverted “W” in their name, in a similar font, on the front of their store.
  Folks have claimed that 6th responding on the net was “cowardly.” But when faced with a large corporation with huge resources: in comparison, what are they to do? The result: the kind of gorilla warfare lawyers and small companies feel is their only recourse sometimes.
  Nothing illegal about it.
 Yes, what is 6th supposed to do? To quote many of these same mockers last election, “Bend over and take it?” Go out of business? They claim to have tried to work with Magic Hat who basically just stopped responding and then got in their face with a lawsuit. Magic, of course, has a different take on what happened.
  A true “he said she said”-like legal debate. Who am I to believe?
  Good question.
  All that having been typed, I find the controversy a tad suspicious. 6th makes noise on the net, petitions signed, noise dies down a bit, then Magic Hat raises hell by responding. Noise dies down after a while, and then 6th raises more hell.
  Perhaps we’re all being used. Will they both milk (Stout?) it as much as they can then quietly settle?
  But as for the truth here, we shall see…
  …or not.

                                                     -30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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