DB awaits hearing on Radler trademark
3rd MAY 2011
DB AWAITS OUTCOME OF IPONZ HEARING REGARDING RADLER TRADE MARK
DB Breweries (DB) will await the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand’s (IPONZ) decision before making any comments on a challenge by SOBA (Society of Beer Advocates) to have its 'Radler' trade mark revoked.
DB anticipates IPONZ will issue its
decision next month following this week’s hearing.
DB is presenting its evidence this week detailing that it trademarked ‘Radler’ in 2003 in recognition of the financial investment it had made in the Monteith's 'Radler' brand at that time. That investment continues to be substantial with Monteith’s Radler one of the brand’s leading variants.
DB originally chose the name ‘Radler’ because it referred to an interesting but obscure story about an innkeeper in Bavaria. That story has always been acknowledged on Monteith's Radler labelling and marketing.
At the time (2001), the term Radler meant nothing to the average New Zealand consumer. A recent survey by DB, which forms part of their hearing evidence, shows the term simply means Monteith's Radler product to New Zealand consumers.
The term ‘Radler’ means "cyclist" in German. It is used in parts of Germany to refer to a beer mixed with lemonade. The most similar beverage in people’s minds in New Zealand at the time Monteith's Radler was first created, and indeed today, is a ‘Shandy’.
DB Breweries general manager marketing, Clare Morgan says Monteith’s was not attempting to make a ‘Shandy’ when it launched its new product. “Monteith’s wanted to introduce an appealing citrus-infused, fullstrength and full-flavoured beer to the New Zealand market which would fit well with the other Monteith’s variants. The name ‘Radler’ was chosen for this reason – Monteith’s wanted something distinct and interesting.”
DB’s registration of Radler as a trade mark means other local brewers cannot use the term ‘Radler’ in the New Zealand market. It doesn’t however stop other shandy or lemon or lime flavoured beverages being made by local brewers.
Ms Morgan says she is looking forward to the trademark issue being resolved and DB and Monteith’s returning its full focus to brewing and promoting great beer.
SOBA first challenged DB in 2009 regarding its trade mark after it was brought to DB’s attention that a Dunedin-based brewery (Green Man) had released a product called “Green Man Radler”.
DB’s lawyers, Simpson Grierson, wrote to
Green Man asking them to respect its trade mark and
producing a beer called Radler.
The brewery responded that the product was only produced in small quantities as it was a seasonal release; that no more was in production, and that it did not intend to produce any more in the future. As a result, it said DB had little cause for concern and suggested an amicable solution could be reached.
Green Man agreed to place stickers on bottles it still had in stock by hand replacing the word Radler with the word ‘Cyclist’. Stock that was out in the market was permitted to be sold on the condition that Green Man did not challenge the trade mark or produce more stock.
DB did not ‘issue proceedings’ against Green Man Brewery Ltd (or threaten the company) as stated by SOBA.
It simply wrote asking them to cease using the term ‘Radler’, which Green Man agreed to do. It is standard business practice to protect a company’s trade mark.
By March 2009, the issue with Green Man Brewery was resolved through an exchange of letters between respective solicitors. Settlement was expressly based on, amongst other things, the following representations made by Green Man Brewery through its solicitors:
The Green Man “Radler” product had been produced in small quantities as a seasonal release and Green Man Brewery was not proposing to produce or market any further products using the "Radler" name.
It had sold almost all of its stock of the Green Man "Radler" product.
In April 2009, DB received notification from lawyers James and Wells that SOBA had applied to have the trade mark ‘Radler’ declared invalid with IPONZ. Nearly a year later SOBA filed its evidence; followed by DB's, including an evidential survey from independent research house, Colmar Brunton. SOBA then filed a lot of further evidence. DB has responded about some issues, although SOBA keeps trying to file more evidence.
Finally, the matter is ready to be considered by IPONZ. Throughout this time DB has undertaken the process SOBA initiated in good faith.
DB now looks forward to having this issue resolved. Throughout this process, sales of Monteith’s RADLER have grown considerably confirming the brand’s position as one of Monteith’s most popular beer variants and a firm favourite among Kiwis.