Anchor Steam(ed) up in dispute over use of “Steam” trademark for craft beer by City Steam Brewery

In a lawsuit filed two weeks ago, Anchor Steam Brewery is seeking to enforce its rights to its “Steam” trademark for beer against City Steam Brewery in Connecticut.  The case between these two brewers had been milling around the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board but now that Anchor filed suit, they’re seeking to stay that action pending resolution of this lawsuit.

According to the allegations of this latest brewer on brewer trademark suit, Anchor may have been content to leave well enough alone when City Steam was only coming our of a brewpub, but…

“ANCHOR has become aware that defendants are using in commerce the confusingly similar mark “CITY STEAM” (the “CITY STEAM MARKS”) in connection with the promotion, marketing and sale of craft beer. ANCHOR has learned that defendant CITY STEAM BREWERY initially only made and sold its CITY STEAM beer for consumption on the premises of its brewpub in Hartford, Connecticut. ANCHOR has now become aware that defendants have recently begun making and selling beer under the CITY STEAM marks not only at their bar, but also bottled or casked for distribution and sale in interstate commerce.”

Another interesting twist is that in addition to the regular claims for trademark infringement, dilution, false designation and state claims for unfair competition, Anchor is also going after City for “Cyberpiracy” under 15 U.S.C. §1125(d) for registration and use of the domain name but not the use of its website (the two are mirror images).

This lawsuit, if it eventually leads to an opinion and written decision, could end up providing some valuable guidance in the myriad of trademark disputes going on in the craft beer world where breweries with registrations for fairly common words used in either their brewery names or in a beer name are continually sending cease and desist letters to other breweries when they find out that the same word is being used in a different combination of words for another beer or brewery.

You can find a copy of the complaint here.

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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1 Response

  1. May 13, 2019

    […] Certainly, a use or even a mark along the lines of “made by the descendants of the founders of the James River Steam Brewery” would put this into the same territory the Sixth Circuit dealt with in the Old Taylor distillery case. This case will likely involve many of the same arguments and precedents cited in that opinion given the historic nature and Yuengling’s documented prior use – even up to the 1990’s of the name. We’ve written before about Anchor’s defense of the Steam name. […]

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