Shipyard Brewing loses lawsuit over Shiphead beer
A federal judge dismisses Shipyard's claim that a Missouri brewer infringed on its trademark.
BY EDWARD D. MURPHY
Shipyard Brewing Co. has lost its trademark infringement lawsuit against a Missouri brewer that created a brand of beer called Shiphead.

A Missouri federal judge on Monday granted a request for summary judgment by Logboat Brewing Co., the maker of Shiphead, dismissing Shipyard’s claims that Shiphead violated the Portland brewer’s trademark with its name, the color scheme on the can and a “schooner logo” on the Shiphead can. A summary judgment is issued before a trial in cases where the judge determines the facts and law are clearly on the side of one of the parties in the suit.

The judge, Nanette K. Laughrey, said there was no evidence to support Shipyard’s claims that consumers could be confused by the names and the image of the schooner. The vessel on the Shipyard logo is depicted in port, while in the Shiphead logo, it is in the hair of a painting of a woman serving beer.

Laughrey had earlier dismissed part of the suit that claimed Longboat had stirred up negative reviews of Shipyard’s products after the trademark suit was filed.

In her ruling this week, Laughrey dismissed Shipyard’s claims about the similarity of the beer names.

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“Shipyard argues that its Shipyard mark and Logboat’s Shiphead Ginger Wheat mark ‘look and sound alike’ because they share ‘six out of eight letters,’ ” she wrote. “But no reasonable juror could conclude that the terms ‘yard’ and ‘head’ independently are similar in look or sound, outside of the negligible fact that they both end with the letter ‘d.’ The only real similarity between Shipyard and Shiphead Ginger Wheat is the term “ship,” and Shipyard has admitted that ‘ship’ is a generic term, not subject to trademark protection.”

The judge also noted that a shipyard is a physical space and a term that has been in use in the English language since at least 1647, while “shiphead” is a made-up word coined by an artist friend of the founders of Longboat Brewing. And, she said, the two breweries operate in different markets, with Shipyard beer sold primarily in New England, the mid-Atlantic, Florida and California, while Shiphead is sold exclusively in Missouri. Some Shipyard beer is sold in Missouri through a “master distributor,” Laughrey said, but sales there amounted to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2017.

“We still feel it’s an infringement and the judge didn’t,” said Fred Forsley, the founder and president of Shipyard Brewing. He said he plans to call the owners of Longboat Brewing to see if the two companies can work out an arrangement to avoid any confusion in the future.

Calls to Longboat Brewing on Tuesday were not immediately returned.

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