Labels before and after.
A decision yesterday allowing DB Breweries to keep its
registration of the trademark "Radler" has infuriated a Dunedin
brewery, which had been part of a three-year battle to get the
Green Man Brewery's label will have to stay. Photos
"It's outrageous, just unbelievable. I'm just absolutely
shocked," Green Man Brewery general manager Jeremy Seaman said
on learning the news yesterday.
The beer giant took action in 2008 against craft brewer Green
Man, saying its use of the name was a trademark breach.
DB trademarked Radler in 2004, two years after its 5%
Monteith's Radler hit the market.
Radler is a term commonly used in Europe and elsewhere to
describe a shandy-like beverage with an alcohol content of
around 1% to 2% by volume.
DB's Monteith's Radler has an alcohol of 5% by volume.
Mr Seaman said Green Man started producing its version
because it wanted to make a true radler beer.
That radler was a registered trademark only became widely
known when Green Man was notified it had infringed DB's
trademark and was required to cease producing the beer, or
Unable to afford a protracted legal battle, Green Man
relabelled its beer "Green Man Cyclist".
In 2009, the Society of Beer Advocates (Soba) stepped in and,
supported by Hamilton intellectual property lawyer Ceri
Wells, who offered his services free of charge, applied to
have DB's trademark revoked, arguing radler was a generic
term for a style of beer, and could therefore not be
Yesterday, the Intellectual Property Office (Iponz) decided
DB's trademark should not be cancelled on the basis the term
radler was not known as a descriptive term in New Zealand
when the trademark was granted in 2004.
Mr Seaman believed the decision was a "no-brainer", but it
appeared Iponz held a different opinion.
"Basically, this means we can go out anywhere in the world
and find a style of beer, and if it is not well known here we
can trademark it," Mr Seaman said.
The situation highlighted the "completely" uncompetitive
nature of the beer market in New Zealand, he said.
In a statement DB marketing general manager Clare Morgan said
DB did not do it to prevent competition or restrict
consumers' access to different types of beer products.
"Our trademark has never stopped shandy or lemon or
lime-flavoured beverages being made by local brewers under
their own brand name." While costs were awarded to DB, the
brewer would not be asking Soba to pay up, she said.
Soba said the finding was "majorly disappointing".
"This whole thing is eroding any confidence people might have
in trademarking," Soba spokesman Martin Bulmer said.
He paid credit to Mr Wells, who he said had a challenge going
up against DB and its financial might.
The radler story had garnered international interest, and he
was sure there would be many disappointed people all over the
No thought had been given yet to an appeal, he said.
Soba's position had always been it did not think any brewery
should own the name of a beer style.
Marketing professor Phil Gendall, from Massey University, who
made a submission to Iponz in support of Soba, said he was
surprised by the decision.
While he would not have thought a style of beer could be
trademarked, it appeared this decision was made on the basis
of the level of the population's knowledge of the radler beer
style at the time the term radler was trademarked, he said.
It seemed a term that was well known in other parts of the
world, but not yet in New Zealand, could be trademarked
without any consideration it might become well known in New
Zealand in the future.
It was interesting to note DB had also trademarked another
European style of beer - saison - but deregistered the
trademark last year, Prof Gendall said.
"I wonder why they thought that was less defensible. Perhaps
they weren't going to make any more saison."