Here's a fun thing I never thought I'd find myself saying: the world should take a cue and be more like beer drinkers. Specifically, that is, when it comes to how the beer drinking community reacts to trademark law. Any review of this site's coverage of trademark law as it pertains to the alcohol and beer industries will show that there is a burgeoning problem in this industry, where explosive growth in craft brewing has resulted in a likewise explosive growth in trademark disputes. What's somewhat unique in the industry, however, is the sense of community both between brewers and drinkers and, more importantly, between brewers themselves. This bond has muted what would otherwise be disastrous intellectual property squabbles.
And part of that is indeed fueled by the consumers themselves. An example of this can be found in a New Zealand brewer's attempt to trademark a common term in the industry, only to have the public outcry force it to pull back its application.
Brewing giant Lion says it has withdrawn its trademark application for the word "dank". The company caused a stir in the craft beer world last week with the move, which it said was in relation to a product it was developing. It said the trademark application was aimed at stopping others from trying to copy its IP, not from using the term altogether.
"We recognise the application caused concern about the restrictions this would put on others, and as such we have chosen to withdraw the applications," the company said.
It's important to remind yourself that this sort of industry language-grab happens in other industries roughly all the freaking time. The permission culture mentality has so invaded the corporate world so as to cause them to seek any and all advantages, no matter how abusive they are or how counter to the purpose of trademark law they might be. In the craft brewing space, the common industry good is taken more seriously, such that attempts like Lion's, wherein the company attempted to legally lock up a word used extensively by competitors, is met with backlash from both the industry and the public. That's the kind of pressure that causes a course correction.
Craft beer fans were up in arms when Lion's trademark application was posted on the Beertown Facebook page last week.
"Dank, dankier, dankiest. Lion is attempting to trademark DANK as a beer descriptor. Anyone think that's a bit rank?", the Beertown post said.
The founder of brewery 8 Wired, Soren Eriksen, who recently launched a Superdank beer brand, said he had been sceptical. Eriksen said he was concerned that Lion might get more restrictive about the use of the term in the future if the application had been successful.
When everyone from the industry to the fans of that industry are focused more on the good of that industry than purely commercial gamesmanship, you can manage to stave off the worst effects of trademark laws.
In other world, be more like beer drinkers, world.