Monday, 7 September 2009

Heineken goes to court against Swiss group

Heineken has gone to court to stop a Swiss group from distributing a spoof brand called Keineken (No Heineken). Local beer lovers decided to launch the brew in protest at the Dutch giant's increasing domination of the Swiss beer market.
A judge in the Swiss canton of Obwalden has ordered a supply of 1,200 Keineken bottles and matching glasses to be confiscated after Heineken filed a complaint for trademark infringement.
The No Heineken campaign is in response to recent acquisitions by the Dutch beer giant in the Swiss beer market. A year ago, Heineken acquired the Swiss brewer Eichof from Lucerne. According to Conrad Engler of the Keineken campaign, this meant that "the last big independent Swiss brewer ended up in foreign hands."
Eight years ago, when Carlsberg took over the Feldschlossen brewery near Basel, local beer aficionados founded the Unser Bier (Our Beer) brewery in the same city. The Keineken campaign in Lucerne was inspired by this.
On 19 August Keineken desposited the Keineken trademark with the Swiss patent bureau and had Unser Bier brew a supply of Keineken beer. But before the 120 Keineken members could even taste the brew, the police had sealed the lot.
The small scope of the Keineken campaign is no argument, said a Heineken spokesperson. "We see this as a trademark infringement and we filed a complaint accordingly."
The speed with which Heineken acted took the Keineken activists by surprise. "On Friday morning we sent out a press release about Keineken and four hours later Heineken's lawyers were on the phone," Conrad Engler said. "They demanded an immediate halt to the distribution of Keineken and a withdrawal of the trademark."
Keineken said it was willing to halt the sale of Keineken until the trademark was processed but Heineken was not appeased and went to court. That same night the police entered Engler's garage to seal the Keineken supply. As a result, there was no Keineken beer at a party on Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of Heineken's acquisiton of Eichof. Instead the guests drank Unser Bier.
"As a precaution we blacked out the Keineken name on the t-shirts and flags we had made," Engler said. "That was just as well, as the police came by to check for further trademark infringements."
The judge is expected to take several weeks to reach a final verdict. Heineken is confident it will win the case, a spokesperson said.
But Conrad Engler expects to get the last laugh. "Heineken scored an own goal with their legal action," he said. "The media attention has brought us dozens of new members. Our goal -- to have an Engelberger Klosterbrau by 2012 -- has now come a bit closer, with or without Keineken."


Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Its all in the hands of the drinkers. People power can regulate any company. Its a pity if these new brewers are trying to 'con' people by having similar names and branding.
In the end quqlity will win to those who want quality. We have to accept that the majority of people are more interested in price and/ or marketing.
Its the same in all dinks and food.
So many people are followers like sheep and do as the marketing men tell them.

I like to think I make my own mind up but I to at times must get taken in by a slick marketing campagne.
But if people are not happy with a product they should stop moaning and start their own but not with their own sharp prctice.

7 September 2009 at 12:03  
Blogger Matt Hendry said...

Brewtopia a beer Company in Australia has made all sorts of Spoof labels and the big breweries gave them so much publicity when they threatened legal action against Brewtopia that they eventually gave up because the legal action was basicly free advertisng .

Brewtopia now sells mixed cases of the Spoof Labeled beer .

7 September 2009 at 23:07  
Blogger Laurent Mousson said...

I've blogged lately about this very thing here, if your French is up to it :

There's a twist nobody seems to have seen: Indeed Keineken is a portmanteau for 'kein Heineken' which can be taken to mean 'no Heineken' not also 'not an Heineken'.
Trademark infringement cases , when the TM is deemed to close to the original, rely on the risk that the average consumer will be getting confused and mix up both brands. Now you tell me : how can one mix up Heineken with something which clearly states it's 'not an Heineken' ?

As a sidenote, in June 2008, Unser Bier, mentioned also here, came up, as a protest against Carlsberg monopoly on the fan zones at the Euro 08 football championship, with a beer labelled 'mehr als nur Calrsbreg", i.e. 'more than just Calrsbreg'.

Unlike Heineken, Carlsberg did keep their cool, and didn't do much more than groan.
Heineken, in this case, are giving an unexpected exposure and legitimacy to Keineken as an association protesting the takeover of Eichhof. Looks like to me like they're shooting themselves in the foot here...

11 September 2009 at 11:10  

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