You may recall that the middle of last summer saw us reporting on a somewhat odd trademark dispute between two breweries, Shipyard Brewing Co. and Logboat Brewing Company. Chiefly at issue was the fact that both breweries used images of schooners on their respective labels, except that the images used were laughably different. Also at issue was that Logboat's "Shiphead" beer used the word "head", which Shipyard says it uses in a variety of other beers, such as Pumpkinhead, Melonhead and other variations. Shipyard, notably, does not have a beer called "Shiphead", making this all the more eyebrow-raising.
Well, after we and others reported on this silly lawsuit, it seems that many within the craft beer fanship and community, a passionate group to be sure, felt a desire to let Shipyard Brewing know what they thought of this behavior. This is a common result when passionate fanbases get wind of bad actions taken within an industry. Despite that, Shipyard had apparently decided that all of this backlash was the fault of Logboat Brewing, and added a defamation charge to its lawsuit.
The Maine craft brewery’s complaint alleged that the hundreds of one-star reviews as well as negative news articles were prompted by Logboat employees, who made defamatory statements concerning Shipyard to the public “as retribution for Shipyard filing suit.” The brewery listed three examples of statements it considered to be defamatory:
-Suggestions that Shipyard is pursuing the trademark lawsuit for ulterior motives
-Unsubstantiated claims that Shipyard is a trademark bully
-General insults concerning Shipyard’s business and the quality of its beers
Well, the judge presiding over all of this has issued a ruling on that portion of this dispute, roundly rejecting the latter two of those three claims by Shipyard because they are matters or expressions of opinion. She went on to say that the claim of ulterior motive is something that could be proved in court and allowed Shipyard to amend its filing accordingly.
U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey dismissed parts of a defamation claim against Logboat that alleged the craft brewery’s employees slandered Maine-based Shipyard Brewing Company in retaliation for a lawsuit filed in May.
It's not a good first look for Shipyard and it's worth remembering that all of this consternation is in the service of a trademark lawsuit that is wholly unnecessary and one that is almost certainly itself tarnishing the reputation of the brewery in the eyes of the craft beer consuming public. It's probably time for Shipyard to cut both anchor and its losses.