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Legal dispute brewing between Bell’s Brewery and North Carolina craft brewer

Posted at 3:54 AM, Mar 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-11 03:59:53-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A legal dispute is brewing between one of West Michigan’s most well-known craft breweries and a smaller beer-maker in North Carolina.  It centers on a possible trademark issue involving Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, and Innovation Brewing of Sylva, North Carolina.

According to Citizen-Times in North Carolina, it began with a slogan that Bell’s uses, which reads “Bottling Innovation since 1985.”  It is not used on any labeling or beer packaging, but the slogan is used on bumper stickers:

Courtesy: Bell’s Brewing, Inc.

Bell’s — which produces flagship beers that include Hopslam, Two Hearted, and Oberon — argues that Innovation Brewing’s use of the term could cause confusion among customers.  The North Carolina-based brewery responded, saying it is disappointed in the situation and fails to see any confusion.  Citizen-Times reports that Innovation Brewing is now unable to purchase additional brewing equipment due to mounting legal fees.

Courtesy: Innovation Brewing

In terms of production, Bell’s is a much larger brewing operation than Innovation, putting out 310,000 barrels of beer last year.  That’s compared to just 500 barrels from Innovation.

While owner Larry Bell would not comment on the issue with Citizen-Times, Bell’s posted the following on its Facebook page:

“We hear and appreciate everyone’s comments about a trademark issue with Innovation Brewing.

We are doing our best to continue working through this as amicably as possible and are hopeful we can find a mutual resolution.

Out of respect for the legal part of this process that we are now in, we will decline commenting further.”

It is not uncommon for disputes of this sort in the craft brew industry to be settled outside of a courtroom setting.