The owner of enormous wine company Kendall-Jackson has been successful in forcing a microbrewery and taproom some 290 miles away to change its name after negotiations failed. Cambria Beer Company, which opened in 2012 in the town of Cambria, California, is a modest operation that turns out a variety of wheat beers, stouts, and pale ales throughout the year. It’s the type of place that locals love and one that never updates its website. Aaron and Jennifer Wharton say they never thought twice about their name until they received a cease-and-desist letter for Jackson Family Farms, Kendall-Jackson’s parent, demanding that they relinquish the name. “We can no longer call our little brewery ‘Cambria Beer Company,’” they wrote on Facebook. “’The Beer Company of Cambria’ is out as well.”
The wine company’s rationale included potential confusion between the taproom and another winery it owns called Cambria Estate, located in Santa Maria 66 miles away, and in a different county. A Redditor points out that Jackson Family owns more than a dozen such trademarks for generic-sounding names like “Stonestreet” and “La Crema”; it was recently reported that craft brewers in general have been suing rivals right and left over a surfeit of similarities in names and logos.
These kinds of battles never end well for the smaller company. In 2013, a St. Louis brewpub called Exit 6 received a threat from Starbucks for serving a brew called “Frappicino” for fear that the someone might confuse the multinational coffee chain’s most famous drink with a porter brewed by a guy working out of a Missouri highway storefront. (The brewer eventually sent a long and sprawling letter apologizing for “any damage Exit 6 did to Starbucks,” and included a check for $6.)
As for the Whartons, they’ve crowd-sourced a bunch of new options for their beer company instead of taking on an estimated $50,000 in legal fees. They’re searching through trademark catalogues, they say, before going public with their new name.