Friday 17 July 2009

Trademarks as Rent-seeking

The Real Beer Blog points to one of the more egregious recent rent-seeking uses of intellectual property protection in New Zealand. DB Breweries trademarked the name "Radler" for its Monteith's brand. Of course, Radler is a common international style; it's akin to trademarking "Pilsner" or "Ale".

And, this isn't the first time DB's gone this route. The ODT reports:
It also bid, unsuccessfully, to trademark its Summer Ale in 2007 to stop Lion Breweries selling Mac's Sun Dance Summer Ale and at the same time tried to stop Galbraith Brewery in Auckland from selling a summer ale it had been making for 12 years.

Lion produces a radler style under its Barefoot label in Australia but does not sell it here. It does not believe anyone should have exclusive use of the name of widespread beer styles.
Trademarks make sense as a way of preventing folks from eroding a firm's reputation. DB would rightfully get upset if another brewery tried to produce a "Monteith's" beer. But summer ales and radlers are fairly common styles. DB here seems to be trying to use IP law instead to raise its rivals' costs. It is no more likely that a drinker would confuse a Monteith's Summer Ale with Mac's Summer Ale than that they'd confuse a Monteith's Pilsner with anyone else's.

So now Green Man puts a sticker saying "Cyclist" over the "Radler" name on the label.

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