Friday 11 June 2010

Fever Pitch

I don't really like football. I can also tend to have a dislike of large brewing companies, although they can be OK if they play fair. With the current mass hysteria surrounding the World Cup and the way that many businesses that are appealing to the lowest common denominator behave, my irritation at the whole damn thing is increasing.

Yates of Cumbria make a nice beer. I'll admit to having joyfully consumed several gallons over the past few years. They used to make a nice summer brew called Fever pitch; being a small brewery they never registered the product as a trade mark.

Marston's took over Jennings a little while ago, they saw that Fever Pitch was a good name, with the World Cup coming along, and quickly registered the trade mark. They then proceeded to threaten, as I understand it, good old Yates Brewery with legal action. They have now changed the name of the Yates version so I'm all confused.

I do not have a form of words that accurately describe my contempt for this kind of behaviour of larger breweries, or perhaps I do, but my kids read this sometimes. You are not nice people Marston's. I dislike the World Cup even more now. For the duration of the World Cup I am going to seek out as much Yates beer as I can find to drown my sorrows.


BeerReviewsAndy said...

It does seem a case of the little guy getting sh1t on from above.

There's been a few cases of naming disputes lately, im sure Kelly from Thornbridge Mentioned one as did Williams Bros.

There was also an article in the publican yesterday about hook norton having to remove world cup from the pumpclip due to a fifa crackdown.

Cooking Lager said...

Can you trade mark Fever Pitch? It's also a film and book.

More fool the small brewer for not trademarking their the brand themselves.

Ed said...

We're currently in a trademark dispute with a champagne company!

rabidbarfly said...

Just what you'd expect from one of the big boys in brewing, pathetic and greedy bullying.
How long before one of them tries to trademark something like say... Amarillo for(a rather shite) example? How many breweries have used that as a beer name? I count at least 30 on Ratebeer alone and that's just one site.
Hophead is a better example as it's not a type of hop. Anyway I've rambled on enough so I'll just get back in my box now.

Alistair Reece said...

You'd think who ever comes up with these names would be slightly internet savvy and do a Google search. Similar thing happened to a local brewery, when they had boxes for a summer mixed set printed up and then discovered that one of the major US craft brewers had a season special of the same name, cue getting more printing done, this time of labels in order to cover the offending word.

Google is your friend people, especially if referring to this post, which is top of the Google rankings for "fever pitch beer".

ChrisM said...

The problem is that the small brewers don't have the resources to go through trademarking brands all the time.

I mean, fair play to Marston's for keeping their breweries open on the original sites, but stuff like this doesn't endear them to me. At least the Yates beer lives on as 'Golden Ale' and is as good as ever.

Mark, said...
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Mark, said...

That's our society maddening as it is, those that can afford, take. Football sees it, the big clubs simply harvest the youngsters that smaller clubs have nurtured.

-1 for Marston's for threatening legal action, why can't they just let Yates be?

Neville Grundy said...

I know it's not a beer example, but our local free paper decided to publish a free local magazine called High Life. British Airways recently found out and ordered them to change it, as their in-house magazine has that name.

It's now called Gr8 Life!

Washy said...

I have a theory about Marston's. Most blokes really like the smell of their own farts. Many years ago someone at Marston's came up with the most eggy and sulphurous beer imaginable and called it Pedigree. A beer that smells like one's own finest? Bound to be a huge success. Maybe Yates should start marketing Fartston's Eggybrew.

StringersBeer said...
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StringersBeer said...
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StringersBeer said...

It looks like "Fever Pitch" was filed way back in 1999...

I wondered if it was possible to lodge a "caveat" with the trademark people for all our un-trademarked names so then we'd get a tip-off when some fecker tries to trademark them - in time to object. But no, it turns out the only way is to start a registration. at 200 quid a time this is just impossible for the small brewer - small change for the big boys. Most unfair

Marston's suits may be hot stuff, but their brewers must be sick of being constantly bettered by chaps in sheds.

P.S. and ratebeer are good spots for looking up beer names.
And of course the TM register is searchable ( )

Barry said...

Ok I see where you're coming from on this and I too much prefer Yates over Marstons. However, I find this all this boo hiss pantomime condemnation of big brewers a little puerile.

For one thing, it's as Cooking Lager says, if they really value the brand, then there's no excuse for not protecting it. And a lot of smaller breweries do actually do this, so it's not beyond anyone.

Secondly, it's a widely accepted practice. You might hear more about the big boys as they have most to lose, but it's not uncommon. Who is one of the most protective and litigant minded of brewers? Marstons? Greene King?

No it's Tony Allen of Heywood based Phoenix brewery. Yes, a micro brewer. You upset him at your peril. He's, in my view correctly by the way , very protective of his brand. So I don't think you can make this issue too much of a David and Goliath battle.

Unknown said...

Marston's have always been hot on trademarks. They have hundreds.

With my professional hat on, I can add;

- you trade mark under various classes, so different products in different markets can have the same name but still trade marked seperately. So Marston's have the 'Fever Pitch' TM for class 32 (includes beer), EMI have it for various other uses.

- a trade mark has to be distinctive and cannot be a term that's already customary to that trade. So, it's difficult to lay claim to styles as trade marks (as TMs shouldn't be descriptive)

- Amarillo is a registered trade mark in the United States; Yakima Chief regularly trademark their hop varieties (Simcoe and Warrior are TMs too)

- I've seen clients break down and cry when they realised after 2 years of building a business that there chosen trading name had already been trademarked. Stationery, signage, website... all rendered worthless.

- anyone can carry out basic checks for existing UK trademarks at You can manage the process online. It's £200 a go; yes, it's a cost. But what's going to happen if you've barrel-aged a beer for a year, put it into expensive bottles and then found you can't license the name as it's trademarked? It's the sort of cost that ought to be factored into product development and business startups.

Apologies for length. I'll take my professional hat off now.

DJ said...

Even if this is not friendly play from Marstons it does seem to me that Yates made the mistake by not registering the name. I wouldn't expect a big brewer like Marstons to act in any other way.

StringersBeer said...

haddonsman, you're right - one could very easily end up saving money by trademarking a name, but this is only really valuable to a small brewer as a defense against someone else doing so. A small brewer might not really care that there's another beer called "whatever". It's the trademark system itself that makes not trademarking risky. And that's "wrong", particularly as there is a flat fee system. I suppose that an alternative approach is to try to ensure that names aren't trademark-able.

Unknown said...

Lots of really great comments here, I'm sorry I haven't been back since.

Cookie, and others in support of Marston's, of course make valid points. The rules are the rules and as it happens I don't feel that a change in the rules is in order. Trademarking is there and available for all to use, it's not really that expensive if a trade name is important to a business.

I think there are also some other important issues to remember, firstly Marston's took over Jennings, who used to have, and still retain, a level of local friendly support to the beer community. Yates Brewery has been operating for many years and is a respected micro within Cumbria.

The fact that Fever Pitch was first registered in 1999 does rather reduce the altitude of Yates moral elevated tera firma, I agree. They are a reasonable force in Cumbria's brewing community and I suspect they realise themselves that they should have trademarked some stuff.

It does though illustrate a hierarchical trading situation in the brewing community; one which resulted in a frank discussion between myself and a slightly more commercial brewer in the last week, when we were both, admittedly, somewhat tipsy. There are those of use that just wish to be commercial to the level that we make a reasonable living at the job, and join in with a great brewing community. There are others.......

In summary, the actions of Marston's is divisive; it splits the brewing community, which I think is a shame. It also has an effect on the way the beer community view Marston's as a brewer in the local Jennings heartland.

Returning to the issue of small brewers trademarking, or for that matter any small business of a similar size. As the reduction in writing from me testifies, setting up and running a small business is time consuming. There are many things to think about and it does irritate me when the retort is, when I write about such issues "well you should have...... " we often know what we should do, we just haven't got time. Yates is a relatively small operation that does remarkably well, they probably didn't view trademarking as a high enough priority until events overtook them. It's often not about the direct costs of applying such things, it's the internal administration which often has to be done in the evening or weekends. Some of use would just like to get on with the job of making great beer.

I feel I need to address Barry's point about the attack on big brewers being puerile. Perhaps that's true, and I have no problem with that view, so I shall apologise because there is bound to be more puerility from me in future posts.

Finally, thank you Reluctant Scooper AKA Haddonsman for the excellent advice. Trademarking is now being elevated to a level slightly below cask washing.