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Brick sued by Labatt – Red Baron vs. Brava

May 19th, 2009 · 10 Comments

Today Brick Brewing announced that Labatt Brewing has sued them over trademark issues between Brick’s Red Baron brand and Labatt’s Brava brand.  The announcement certainly raises an eyebrow regarding the conflict of interest that our beer retail network is owned by the major breweries (48.5% Labatt, 48.5% Molson) and their products dominate the network at the same time.

The news release says how Brick paid to participate in a Beer Store lobby display program, and also an additional fee for TBS to sort Red Baron’s bottles (since they are non-industry standard).  In effect Labatt is taking fees with one hand as TBS owner then asking for more with the other hand as a TBS competitor to Brick.

The release also points out something we’ve raised here before, that consumers generally have to ask for Brick by name.  The label wall and general lack of shopping experience creates an environment where consumers can’t browse for beers at TBS, only look at their label on the wall.  This certainly favours beers that consumers already know as they are less likely to try something new when they can’t see it.

It is troubling to think that a brewery needs to watch its back not only from competitors but also the very distribution network that it relies on for its sales.  A suit such as this could cause business hostilities between Labatt and Brick.  Unfortunately in the restricted beer marketplace that we have in Ontario Brick would have very few options to sell elsewhere, so in effect they are stuck with them.

You can discuss this issue on The Bar Towel forum here.

Tags: Brands · The Beer Store

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rick Green // May 20, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I had a look at Brick’s packaging for a case of Red Baron. It’s got “Baron” written in big letters that takes up at least half the side of the box. Hmmmm. Sooooo confusing! How you spell?

  • 2 Adam Merpaw // May 20, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Here we go again: The small craft-brewer getting strong-armed by a huge conglomerate. I do have to admit that the labels do look similar. Is it a coincidence that Brick’s current CEO, Croft, used to be the President of Lakeport when the Brava brand got it’s rebranding?
    Despite this I’m continually angered by the unfair distribution oligarchy that is allowed to rule the Ontario beer market. TBS needs to be dismantled, so that smaller beer manufacturers have the possiblilty of conducting business on more of an even playing field.

  • 3 Breweries Battle Over Ontario : Canadian Trademark Blog // May 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    […] While these marks, taken by themselves, seem quite different, the dispute focuses on the similarities between the labels and packaging used with these products, along with the similarity of the […]

  • 4 pootz // May 30, 2009 at 8:33 am

    If this law suit is even given validity by the courts (i.e. that a corporate oligarch can even experience competitive damages from tiny independent players in a retail distribution system owned by the oligopoly) thn we may as well forgo courts and settle our grievances with a roll of the dice. There is more justice in a roll of the dice.

  • 5 Michael // Jun 10, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Miller Genuine Draft has similar colours.
    Check the url

  • 6 thoughtsofanAmericanFreeMarketeer // Aug 23, 2010 at 7:22 am

    dismantle the liquor control boards.

    end monopolies.

    privatize it all.

    enrich the masses.

    until then, refuse to buy at the teh beer store

  • 7 Davie // Jul 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    “In 2009-10, [LCBO] delivered our 16th record dividend – $1.41 billion – to the provincial government. This figure, which does not include taxes, was $10 million (0.7 per cent higher) than the previous year.”

    If you “privatize all”, we would either have to raise taxes, raise deficit, or cut programs that we don’t have to cut now, due to the lack of revenue that will then go to the Abdullah’s who own the corner stores.

    Private companies or corner stores will not care about experience, selection, or stick up for the craft brewers. They will work with big brands to max their bottom line.

    Reform is needed of course, to make LCBO the voice and negotiation power for its consumers, and to give the consumers what they want.

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