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Corporate ‘Trademark Bully’ Forces Wyoming Brewery to Change Its Name

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

When four local beer lovers decided to open a brewpub in Buffalo, Wyoming, they didn’t have to look far to find the perfect name for their new business.

Clear Creek is a tributary of the Powder River, which runs through the Big Horn mountains, just a few miles outside the scenic northern Wyoming town.

In 2012, Clear Creek Brewing Company opened on Main Street and has been one of Buffalo’s most popular watering holes ever since.

Unfortunately, the locally owned small business will soon be forced to change their name thanks to a corporate distillery located over 1,000 miles away.

Last year, Clear Creek’s owners were served with a cease-and-desist notice from the makers of Pendleton Whisky, Hood River Distillers.

In 2014, two years after Clear Creek Brewery opened in Buffalo, Hood River purchased the rights to an Oregon-based company called the Clear Creek Distillery.

The notice threatened legal action against Clear Creek Brewery unless its owners agreed to license the name and pay royalties. It’s a practice commonly referred to in business circles as “trademark bullying.”

Sadly, the little guy doesn’t win in this story.

Sure, Clear Creek Brewery could legally argue that their business predates the purchase by Hood River, or that companies shouldn’t be able to legally trademark a public landmark, or that the two businesses sell different products, or that Clear Creek Brewing isn’t even distributed outside of Johnson county.

However, the cost of a courtroom showdown is just too much for a small, mom-and-pop brewpub.

Instead of licensing the name and paying royalties to a corporation in Oregon or challenging the cease and desist order, the owners of Clear Creek have decided to change their name.

As soon as they can find a new name that isn’t already trademarked.

We wish them luck.

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