Battle Brews Over Sam Adams Name

Samadamsbeer_2The debate over Sam Adams is heating up. No, not over the City Commissioner and Candidate for Mayor's campaign platform, but over his name. Several days ago Adams along with KEX radio hosts and supporters Mark Mason and Dave Anderson were contacted by the Boston Brewing company alleging that their use of the samadamsformayor.com domain was copyright infringement on the beer brand. Since then, the story has taken off on the internet.

The Boston Daily discusses the brew-ha-ha:

Portland’s City Commissioner, Sam Adams, is running for mayor. Some local talk radio hosts bought some Sam Adams-related domain names for the candidate, which led to a cease and desist order from the Boston-based beer brewer of the same name.

The letter from Boston Beer Co. came to [talk radio host Dave] Anderson last week.

“Boston Beer has used the trademarks SAM ADAMS and SAMUEL ADAMS since 1984,” said the letter, which asked Anderson to surrender the Web sites.

The candidate’s retort makes us want to vote for him.

“They say they’ve been using this trademark since 1984,” Adams said. “I’ve been using it since 1963.”

The Boston Beer Company apparently thought the websites were hoaxes and have since taken a gentler tone with the Oregonian Adams. However, he may not be able to remain master of his domain after the election.

[Boston Beer Co. spokesperson Helen] Bornemann said she’s willing to discuss Adams’ use of his name on his Web sites “probably for the length of the time the election is being held.”

We think it would be pretty clear to anyone who landed on mayorsamadams.com that it wasn’t affiliated with the brewing company. Let’s hope Portland’s Sam Adams has the spirit of Boston’s patriot and tells the company he’s keeping his URL.

Read the comments to the story, where you will find James X's interesting point; Sam Adams used to be brewed in Portland. Rumors also abound of a possible "Portland Beer Party" where Adams' campaign will dump the beer into the Willamette.

Rusty's Blog calls for an all-out boycott of the beer:

Mark and Dave, the afternoon drive guys at KEX radio, recently registered a couple of domain names for Commissioner Sam as he runs for mayor of Portland. One is www.samadamsformayor.com, and the other is www.mayorsamadams.com .

All well and good, right? Well, it was all well and good until the Boston Brewing Company, owners of Sam Adams Beer, got wind of it. After hearing that the domain names had been purchased, they knee-jerked a reaction and fired off a cease-and-desist letter as fast as can be. If Mark and Dave don't give up the domain names by October 29, something ominous will apparently occur.

Just stupid. So I call on whoever sees this to boycott Sam Adams Beer for being un-American and generally ridiculous, for having no sense of humor, and for generally sucking. And, while you're at it, tell them they suck and that they should drop this idiotic issue before they get even more negative press than they're already getting from it.

On his blog, Isaac Laquedem wonders if it isn't Boston Brewing and not Sam Adams who is violating the law:

If, as the brewer says, it's possible for someone to confuse the candidate with the beer, then it must also be possible for someone to confuse the beer with the candidate ("because," as Professor Lehrer sang, "addition is commutative"). Since the brewer admits that people could confuse the candidate with the beer, the brewer should read ORS 260.695, relating to election offenses, which includes this charming passage:

260.695 Prohibitions relating to voting in elections conducted by mail or at polling place.

(2) No person, within any building in which a polling place is located or, in an election conducted by mail, after the date that ballots are mailed as provided in ORS 254.470, within any building in which ballots are issued, or within 100 feet measured radially from any entrance to the building, shall do any electioneering, including circulating any cards or hand bills, or soliciting signatures to any petition. No person shall do any electioneering by public address system located more than 100 feet from an entrance to the building but capable of being understood within 100 feet of the building. The electioneering need not relate to the election being conducted.

Chapter 260 doesn't define "polling place."

As all Oregon elections are now conducted by mail, isn't the home of every registered voter a "polling place"? And if so, then -- keeping in mind that people may confuse Sam Adams the beer with Sam Adams the candidate -- isn't it unlawful for Sam Adams (the beer vendor) to locate its Sam Adams labels within 100 feet of any Portland building that houses a registered voter? Or a ballot drop site (like a mailbox)? Or a post office? Or to have a radio spot running on election day?

Elsewhere, a copy of the letter is available at KEX.

Discuss.

Comments

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    For some reason, I keep envisioning several patriots in Native American garb dumping cases of "King Samuel's Beer" into the Willamette under cover of darkness. Not politically useful, but a nice image, nonetheless.

    Seems to me the beer company doesn't have a dog in the political contest, but it sure seems to be doing a lot for Sam's image.

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    For some reason, I keep envisioning several patriots in Native American garb dumping cases of "King Samuel's Beer" into the Willamette under cover of darkness. Not politically useful, but a nice image, nonetheless.

    I just updated the post to note that word on the street is that the campaign is planning such an event. And if they're not, someone should.

  • Eric Parker (Formerly Eric J.) (unverified)
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    Maybe Sam could use this as a slogan:

    "I am not a beer - I am a human mayoral candidate"

  • trishka (unverified)
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    i think this brew-ha-ha is the best thing that could happen to his campaign, for sure. what great exposure! the national media will likely pick it up, it's such a cute human interest story.

    as to the last bit about sam adams (the beer) being in violation of election laws, i think it's a stretch to consider people's homes to be polling places.

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    i think it's a stretch to consider people's homes to be polling places.

    ...and almost certainly not legally accurate. After all, there's lots of election day canvassing that goes on all the time.

    Then again, Isaac often blogs with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

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    Boy, you can tell I didn't post this, or I would have directed people to my ongoing coverage of this at Beervana.

  • Mike Austin (unverified)
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    I'm all for dumping the beer into the Willamette as long as I don't have to pay for it. lol! No reason to give those a$$holes our money, is there? Can we hijack a Sam Adams beer truck and use that to dump in the river? (Just kidding, don't flame me...)

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    I better get a trademark for my name quick, before some beer company comes along....Trademark your name folks! Don't end up like Sam Adams.

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    I don't know, I think the threat by the beer company is pretty dumb. On the other hand, maybe the media coverage is a good thing for Sam Adams (the candidate not the beer).

    I think dumping beer into the river seem like a funny idea, would probably hurt Adams campaign more then it would help.

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    I don't know, I think the threat by the beer company is pretty dumb. On the other hand, maybe the media coverage is a good thing for Sam Adams (the candidate not the beer).

    I think dumping beer into the river seem like a funny idea, would probably hurt Adams campaign more then it would help.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Carl, I think there is a Fisher beer somewhere back east, so you better get that trademark going soon.

    When I read Portland Beer Party, I thought a political party was being formed. That would be a party I'd join. In the Czech Republic, there used to be a Free Beer Party that actually got a lot of votes.

    As for dumping beer in the Willamette, I can't get behind that. Wasting beer while adults are going sober in China is immoral.

  • ws (unverified)
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    "....I think the threat by the beer company is pretty dumb." David English

    I think the beer company's threat is very dumb. I mean really...don't they do any research at all to figure out who the person with the same name as their beer is before sending out some crazy letter? Actually though, this probably isn't directly the beer company's doing, but rather the pack of hired vulture lawyers they've contracted that apparently, greedily grasps at every far fetched infringement claim they can imagine. If there's any true intelligence behind this letter, they'll creatively spin Sam's campaign in their favor.

  • Sam Adams (unverified)
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    The ballot argument would just get laughed at, which I'm sure the blogger intended. But there are so many of us named Sam Adams, that the beer company can't have a valid argument. You kind find out more at www.samadamsbooks.blogspot.com.

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    Trademark isn't the same as copyright.

    What bugs me even more than the inconvenience to our own Sam Adams is the commercial appropriation of our radical revolutionary forebear, who by rights is the intellectual heritage and common intellectual property of all.

    If someone wants to market something using a common heritage historical image they should have to do without the full range of "intellectual property" protections.

    Creators should be rewarded for their work, but "intellectual property" has been extended too far in the U.S.

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    Chris, I agree. This stuff goes too far. Like Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. Do they have anything to do with the original Ben Franklin?

  • zilfondel (unverified)
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    Does this mean we can just mail a bottle of beer into Mult Co instead of the ballot?

  • Isaac Laquedem (unverified)
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    Commissioner (comment 14) and Trishka (comment 4), as Mr. Chisholm notes, I do occasionally write with tongue in cheek, and this was one of those times. Would my theory be laughed out of court? Yes, in a Boston court. In a Multnomah County court, however, the real risk the beer company runs -- if it insists that there's a real risk of confusion between Sam Adams the beer and Sam Adams the candidate -- is that it could have to curtail its advertising in Portland on election day whenever Sam Adams the candidate is on the ballot. It doesn't run this risk if it admits that no reasonable person would confuse the two.

  • Duncan (unverified)
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    The Boston beer company is treading on thin ice. That they would allow Mr. Adams to use the url with his name shows their hubris, there are many instances where corporations with the same or similar names coexist on the internet I.e Remington, guns, vs razors, sunbeam appliances vs computer and mobile phone peripherals. The list goes on. On the other hand Nissan has been trying to get the Nissan.Com url for the years since 1999, from Mr. Nissan and they still have not got it the court s ruling establishes that a person has a right to use a url of his own name, # Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp., 378 F.3d 1002, 1020 (9th Cir. 2004).

    The Ninth Circuit has held that registration of a trademark as a domain name, without more, is not a commercial use of the trademark. Oregon is in he 9th circuit, and the rulings by this circuit would apply to Oregon especially if the provider is in the 9th circuit. Reverse Domain Name Hijacking: Trademark attorneys may recognize Nissan as a classic case of reverse domain name hijacking. A domain name registrant is authorized by 15 U.S.C. 1114(2)(D)(v) to sue an overreaching trademark owner if the original registrant's domain name has been suspended, disabled, or transferred.

    The fact is that Mr. Adams has a absolute right to use this url as long as he does not use it to take away Boston beers business he can use the urls as long as he does not.

    "use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; or (b) reproduce, counterfeit, copy, or colorably imitate a registered mark and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive,"

    Mr. Adams has a right to use this url for ever and the beer company has no right to object, in fact had they registered the url, the case could be made that Mr. Adams could sue them and have it transferred.

    In addition as Mr. Adams is using the urls as part of his running for office, and for the expression of his 1st amendment rights.

    Although the boundary between commercial and non-commercial speech has yet to be clearly delineated, the core notion of commercial speech is that it does no more than propose a commercial transaction. Mattel, 296 F.3d at 906 (quoting Hoffman v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 255 F.3d 1180, 1184 (9th Cir. 2001)) (quotation marks omitted). If speech is not purely commercial that is, if it does more than propose a commercial transaction then it is entitled to full First Amendment protection Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp 9th circuit

    <h2>Boston Beer is acting like the big corporation that it pretends not to be it is a big corporate beer pretending to be a microbrew. It is mostly brewed in Cincinnati, it is really for the most part brewed outside Boston and in fact the just acquired another brewery in Pennsylvania.</h2>
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