A trademark dispute can take years to resolve before the courts and/or the USPTO. But public opinion can move much quicker. And rapidly moving pressure from public opinion can wreak havoc on the normally slow moving trademark dispute process.
Such was the case just yesterday as news online exploded about a dispute between West Sixth Brewing and Magic Hat Brewing over logos that Magic Hat believes are likely to be confused. [The news reports, of course, misreported many aspects of the matter – but that is another issue for another day.]
West Sixth generated and received some favorable news and social media coverage early in the day on Tuesday (see for example: http://www.aceweekly.com/2013/05/lexingtons-west-sixth-brewing-responds-to-magic-hat-lawsuit/) including a petition with more than 6,000 signatures already, Facebook posts, and a domain name www.nomoremagichat.com that forwards to its webpage on the topic. Many comments were posted on both company’s Facebook pages about the trademark trademark issue.
Last night, Magic Hat responded online. They released their side of the story. including letters from counsel for West Sixth that purport to show that West Sixth had already agreed to change the logo at issue. See documents below.
While I don’t know how this dispute will be resolved, I do know that this type of social media and public reaction is more and more likely to be a part of future trademark disputes. Brands are, at their core, about customers. And customers, directly or indirectly, help the businesses at issue come to the decisions they must make about their brands. And social media fuels these types of reactions and makes the potential for a loud and large public reaction easier and faster than ever.*
* I first noted this trend more than 2 years ago in January 2011. See slide 14 here.