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Dogfish Head Brewing company releases statement after trademark backlash

The label for the Kvasir beer from Dogfish Head vs. the label for Vahseer Meadworks in Altavista (WSET)

MILTON, De. (WSET) -- Dogfish Head is responding after a report that it's company is forcing a local meadery to change its name for a second time.

Kvasir Meadworks changed its name to Vahseer Meadworks after failing to get a trademark on the name Kvasir because Dogfish Head Brewery already has a seasonal beer with the same name.

In a letter on its website, Dogfish Head wrote, "when we learned of Kvasir Meadworks, Dogfish founder and CEO Sam Calagione sent them a friendly email asking them to change the name of their meadery. After some back and forth, Kvasir Meadworks agreed to change the name. We wished them luck with their business and thought the matter was closed. In fact, in 2015, the PTO rejected Kvasir Meadwork's trademark application, citing a substantial likelihood of confusion with our Kvasir beer."

Unfortunately, a few short months later, the folks at Kvasir Meadworks filed a trademark application with the PTO for 'Vahseer Meadworks.' While the spelling may be different, 'Kvasir' and 'Vahseer' are pronounced the exact same way. Though spelled differently, the same phonetic pronunciation could cause confusion at the point of ordering at a bar or restaurant. The PTO again agreed that 'Vahseer' was too similar to 'Kvasir' and denied the trademark registration based on Dogfish's Kvasir beer.

The backlash has been about Dogfish Head starting off as a small brewery and now is going after a local, small meadery.

They responded to that complaint saying

We know what it's like to be small. We started Dogfish as the smallest commercial brewery in the country in 1995. We are still small in the context of a US marketplace dominated by a few conglomerates, which together control over 80% of this country's beer market. Trademark policing is one of our least favorite things to do, but in a world with thousands of breweries, meaderies, wineries and distilleries, and a limited number of words in the English language, it's an unfortunate reality.

The local meadery said the time and money to re-brand will take a lot from them. "I'm pretty frustrated that he would see me as a threat as opposed to just part of the industry, that I'm sufficiently different, that I wouldn't be a threat to his beer," said Jerome Snyder, owner of the meadery.

You can read the entire letter below:

We've recently heard some chatter and concerns around a trademark dispute involving our Ancient Ale Kvasir.
Let us first say, we hear you and appreciate your reaching out.
As many know, Dogfish Head has been making and selling our beer-wine hybrid, Kvasir, in the US for more than three years now. It was a little over a year ago we learned that a meadery in Altavista, Virginia was gearing up to make mead under the name Kvasir Meadworks.
Dogfish has a federal trademark for Kvasir, and the PTO - the federal office that handles trademarks - typically considers all alcoholic beverage marks interchangeable and similar when reviewing applications. When it comes to trademarks, there is no point in having a trademark unless you actively defend it (and if we don't defend it, anyone can name a beer, wine or cider Kvasir).
When we learned of Kvasir Meadworks, Dogfish founder and CEO Sam Calagione sent them a friendly email asking them to change the name of their meadery. After some back and forth, Kvasir Meadworks agreed to change the name. We wished them luck with their business and thought the matter was closed. In fact, in 2015, the PTO rejected Kvasir Meadwork's trademark application, citing a substantial likelihood of confusion with our Kvasir beer.
Unfortunately, a few short months later, the folks at Kvasir Meadworks filed a trademark application with the PTO for 'Vahseer Meadworks.' While the spelling may be different, 'Kvasir' and 'Vahseer' are pronounced the exact same way. Though spelled differently, the same phonetic pronunciation could cause confusion at the point of ordering at a bar or restaurant. The PTO again agreed that 'Vahseer' was too similar to 'Kvasir' and denied the trademark registration based on Dogfish's Kvasir beer.
Even after receiving the news from the PTO, Vahseer made no move to change its name to something new and we were forced to send a more formal letter. Trust us, we hate formal letters. Unfortunately, in the trademark world, if you want to protect your brand names, you have to defend them.
We know what it's like to be small. We started Dogfish as the smallest commercial brewery in the country in 1995. We are still small in the context of a US marketplace dominated by a few conglomerates, which together control over 80% of this country's beer market. Trademark policing is one of our least favorite things to do, but in a world with thousands of breweries, meaderies, wineries and distilleries, and a limited number of words in the English language, it's an unfortunate reality.
We have offered to give them plenty of time to phase out the name and come up with a new one, unfortunately, they have chosen to continue with the name that had previously been rejected, albeit spelled slightly different. We are not trying to shut down a small company, and as we've said in all our communications, we wish them all the success in the world.

There are several comments on Dogfish Head's Facebook page condemning their decision to "go after" the meadery in Altavista.

Now, Snyder has retained a lawyer to respond.

Snyder said he doesn't have the funds for a legal team to fight the corporation, but a friend has created a GoFundMe page to try and help with that.

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