By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
A local craft brewery took name-calling to heart and defended itself against a big Colorado brewery to win exclusive rights in Texas to a contested moniker, said Max Schleder, president of Oasis Texas Brewing Company.
The tale of two ales began when New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins claimed the trademark, Slow Ride, the name of a beer made by both it and Oasis Texas Brewing.
Just this past month, however, the two breweries reached an agreement giving Oasis Texas Brewing exclusive rights in Texas to sell its American Pale Ale under the Slow Ride label.
New Belgium, which had revenue of $190 million in 2013 according to Fortune magazine, can still distribute its formerly so-named beer in Texas but only as “Session IPA”. It can continue to be sold outside Texas as Slow Ride.
According to the Austin Business Journal, New Belgium’s new chief executive officer, Christine Perich, said in a prepared statement, “In an effort to put this behind us and move forward with the business of running our business, we’re allowing Oasis to keep the name in Texas and we’ve got the mark for the rest of the U.S. We’re comfortable with that.”
Schleder said he is also satisfied with the results. “Slow Ride is one of our core beers and best selling brands. It earned ‘Best Beer in Austin’ in 2014.”
Oasis Texas Brewing stands its ground
Winding down from the 18-month standoff, Schleder recounted a call in the fall of 2014 from a former New Belgium CEO. He expected a friendly exchange as Oasis Texas Brewing had just picked up a gold medal for its London Homesick Ale at the October Great American Beer Festival in Boulder.
“Winning a gold medal is instant credibility. I thought she was calling to collaborate, maybe buy the beer, but she was hostile, called us ‘gunslingers from Texas’ and said they were going to ‘crush us’,” Schleder reported.
The call was about New Belgium’s claim to the name, Slow Ride.
Five months before, on May 23, 2014, New Belgium began the trademark application process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Slow Ride”.
Oasis Texas Brewing, however, already had its Slow Ride on the market. On Apr. 29, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission approved the name and, by May 9, the beer was in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston and Waco metro areas. Untapped, an online website for beer reviews, published a review of it on May 10.
“We had done a name search and didn’t find anyone who had it,” said Schleder. “We never thought about a trademark. Plus, we didn’t have money for that.”
The bigger brewery did.
“They said they did an exhaustive search before they settled on the name. (But) you’ll see a Google link dated Apr. 30 (about our beer). They (New Belgium) are asking us to believe that nobody in their enormous company Googled ‘Slow Ride,’” he said.
By October, when Schleder got the call from New Belgium, the trademark opposition period had expired. “We didn’t challenge it because we didn’t know about it,” Schleder said.
At this point, Oasis Texas Brewing commenced with some legal “gunslinging” of its own and sent New Belgium a cease and desist letter.
Then, it sent a legal team to try to settle the matter. A joint-use agreement was considered, but Schleder did not see how that would work to Oasis Texas Brewing’s benefit, he said.
Another consideration was for New Belgium to buy the Slow Ride brand from Oasis Texas Brewing, but the counter-offer was well below what Oasis Texas Brewing had in mind, and what it had invested in the label. After Oasis Texas Brewing declined the offer, the next time they heard from New Belgium was by way of a lawsuit, Schleder said.
Now, with a final agreement in place, Oasis Texas Brewing officials are ready to move forward. “We stared down the giant. We’re ready to move on, and we’ll be expanding and having a ground breaking soon,” said Schleder.