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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sleeman Suing Yet Another Craft Brewery

There was news some time ago (last year) that Japanese owned Sleeman Brewery in Guelph, ON was suing Mill Street Brewing Co. and one of their sales representatives for unethical sales practices. The status of that lawsuit - I don't know. I do know that Sleeman is busy suing another brewery. This time focusing on a small craft operation in Aldergrove, British Columbia.

News broke yesterday about Dead Frog Brewery being sued by the large national Sleeman's due to the clear bottles currently being used by the BC brewery. It would appear on face value that Sleeman's is upset that a small, independent brewer would use similar bottles that helped propel Sleeman's to where they are today.

Dead Frog's lawyer, Christopher Wilson, said that the brewery had responded with both a statement of defense and a counterclaim.

"Dead Frog's defense asserts that Sleeman does not have a monopoly on clear glass beer bottles, and that in any event the public is not likely to be confused because of Dead Frog's prominent name, slogans, and frog logo," he said.

"We taste different, we look different, we sound different," Smith said in a press release. "So, this lawsuit is silly, a waste of time and energy."

So what does John Sleeman have to say? "We have no hate on for small players," Sleeman said. "This just happens to be one small player that has come out with a package that we feel is unfairly close to ours."

Seriously? I'm not sure what Dead Frog's sales figures are like, but to warrant a lawsuit over bottle styles? Come on Sleeman's. I admit that the Dead Frog bares a resemblance, but look at the logo for christ sakes, it's a frog, not a maple leaf and beaver. Focus on making better beer and less on suing your small counterparts. There are hundreds of other bottles in circulation that all look identical, save for the actual logo. Brown standard ones, green bottles, and other clear bottles.

What do you think? Do you think Sleeman has a case here? Dead Frog President, Derrick Smith, has vowed not to play dead (no pun intended) and will fight the lawsuit. "This happens fairly regularly in our industry, and most of the time the little guys just roll over, we are choosing not to do that." We will have to keep an eye on this to see where it goes.

Quotes borrowed from the Guelph Mercury and the Langley Advance. Photo's borrowed from Flickr and both breweries respective websites.


Roger said...

Yeah, and while they're at it, they should sue Unibroue for their "U" bottles... oh, never mind, it's okay for another brewery to use clear bottles if they're OWNED by Sleeman's.
What a crock.

Lager Bore

Greg Clow said...

I think that ANY brewery that is serious about making good beer and keeping it fresh would never use clear bottles. The use of clear glass for packaging beer proves that the brewery cares more about marketing than the state their beer might be in by the time it reaches the end consumer.

That said - this is a pretty lame move on Sleeman's part, and I hope it gets laughed out of court, should it reach that point.

Troy Burtch said...

Greg - I thought the exact same thing when I first saw this. I wondered why they (Dead Frog) would go this way, in terms of clear bottles, and equated it to marketing. Sleeman probably thought the same thing and could be the reason behind the lawsuit.

In any case, should this go to court, it would be interesting to see if other breweries would start suing each other for using similar bottles ie. Rolling Rock vs. Steam Whistle, Grolsch vs. any brewer who uses a swing top cap, etc...

malcolm said...

Sleeman can sue all they want, it won't make their shitty beer any better.

Alan said...

I might consider a boycott but I haven't bought a Sleeman beer for the best part of a decade. Your use of the word "another" in the title seems misplaced.

Troy Burtch said...

Alan - I know what your saying in regards to "another." However, the "another" I was referring to was that they are suing Mill Street and now they are suing "another" craft brewery.


Mig said...

Sleeman's still makes beer?

Zoran said...

This is pretty bad but I've seen worse - a few years ago, a brewpub in Kingston was sued by Guinness for naming one of its beers Dragon's Breath. Guinness sells Dragon Stout in Jamaica... I don't know what happened to that one.

Jacob said...

That's the Kingston Brew Pub? Great place. Dragon's Breath is good but their best is the once-a-year Golden Gael Ale.

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