Okay. The bird is the word.
Once a year we all sit with friends and family and gussy up the table a bit more than usual. The time of Holiday feasting is upon us. In the middle west that means meals chock full of flavor, carbs
What's in a name? "Farm Hand" vs "Farmhands"
In response to a lot of chatter on news media, Twitter, and blog sites about a disagreement we had with another small brewery from Pennsylvania, we wanted to put our perspective out there. People seem to be pretty quick to jump to conclusions with only partial information and paint us as some sort of big bully brewery.
However, here are the facts: We are a small husband & wife run brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our best selling flagship beer is called “Farm Hand”. We have spent a lot of the company’s resources developing this brand over the last three years. Tired Hands Brewery out of PA opened last year and has a beer they call “Farmhands”. We first realized this potential conflict earlier this year and reached out to them in an e-mail.
In the e-mail, I made them aware that we already had a brand in the market that we distribute with a very similar name. I let them know that as long as they kept their beer as an in-house pub beer I had no problem with the similar name. However, if they ever chose to distribute this beer, we would have issue with the name. I congratulated them on their opening and asked them to get back with me. I got zero response from this email.
Fast forward to March of this year during the national Craft Brewer's Conference. At a promotional event in Washington DC, both beers “Farm Hand” and “Farmhands” were on tap at the same time at the same bar. There was a lot of confusion at this event for bartenders and patrons alike. It was frustrating as people kept coming up to us to ask us what beer they were drinking. This demonstrates why a beer cannot have a name that only differs by one letter. It became obvious to us that we would have to take further measures to protect our brand, as confusion in the market place had already begun. Being that we have a registered trademark for this brand we are obligated to pursue a dispute, or risk losing all rights to the name or brand forever. Since the other brewery was not interested in talking about it, we took the next step to get a response, thus the letter.
The other bit of mis-information out there is that we are suing the other brewery for “millions of dollars”. This is not true. A “cease and desist” letter basically says that we feel we have a superior claim to use the name in the marketplace given that we have been open longer and have been using it since day one. It also states that we desire for them to recognize this claim and stop using it. We did not want to make them have to change it over night, as we know how much goes into selecting a beer name. So, we gave them 90 days to come up with a new one. In our beer naming process at Vivant, we begin with a Google search to make sure the name we want to use isn't already in use by a distributing brewery. This usually gets us 90% there. A search like this by Tired Hands would have prevented this issue. We also are not obilvious to the fact that many other beers, ours not withstanding, have similar names. However, registry and trade mark, style similarity, and degree of overlap must be considered by all breweies faced with these choices.
We are not trying to put Tired Hands out of business. We just want to end the existing confusion and potential future conflicts in the marketplace between the brand names as both breweries grow. This will cost them nothing to change because we caught it early. The beer will be the same, (in fact their description of the beer sounds delicious and I would like to try it), their customers will still buy it and enjoy it, and it will hopefully not affect their business one bit. I wish Tired Hands well. It sounds like they have a wonderful neighborhood brewery with lots of passionate customers. I know this to be true, because I think I have heard from about every single one of them by now and they have had many colorful suggestions for me.
In the end however, we need to do what is best for our brewery long term. We have over 45 employees, along with their families, that are counting on us for their livelihoods. We do not take that responsibility lightly. Protecting our brands is step one in protecting the company. If anyone has an issue with that, then I guess you are entitled to your opinion. Just don’t make us out to be villains here. Call around, ask anyone in the industry and they will back up that we are respected for both our beer, and our sustainably run and community focused brewery.
Cheers to Craft Beer,
March 27th, 2012 - Best and Brightest Award, Brewery Expansion
February 9, 2012 - First LEED certified microbrewery in the U.S.
November 8, 2011 - Vivant offsets 100% of our electricity with renewable energy!
Check out these great articles about the brewery
July 2013 - West Michigan Tourist Association
June 2013 - Outside Magazine's Best Canned Beers of 2013
June 2013 - Nerd Travel Small cities that love beer
September 2012 - Good Beer Hunting This Ain't No Farm Team
August 12, 2012 - Chicago Tribune - A genuinely 'grand' spot for beers
Mar 27, 2012 - MLive - Doubling capacity and entering Chicago market
Feb 21, 2012 - MiBiz - RECs vs Carbon Offsets
Jan/Feb 2012- Midwest Living names Brewery Vivant Top 25 New Places Stay, Eat & Play in the entire Midwest. Cheers to that.
Jan 2012- Motor Trend Magazine makes a beer run to Brewery Vivant on their way to California
September 26, 2011 - The Buzz from Sicialiano's has a great article on our wood aged beers
September 19, 2011 - Nice review on annarbor.com
July 13, 2011 - Day 38 on Awesome Mitten's journey across Michigan
May 1, 2011 - quick article and a nice tour from MittenBrew
April 10, 2011 - article about various breweries canning, highlighting Vivant
February 10, 2011 - Great review from Grand Rapids Press writer John Serba
February 2011 - Fantastic blog from Michigan Beer Blog!
Dec 21, 2010 - Grand Rapids Press article about us opening
Dec 15, 2010 - Rapid Growth spotlights Brewery Vivant
Dec 2010 - Draft Magazine names Brewery Vivant one of 12 breweries to watch in 2011
Dec 2010 - Recoil Magazine highlights Brewery Vivant