West Sixth Brewing, Magic Hat settle federal lawsuit

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 6, 2013 

  • Official statement

    West Sixth & Magic Hat

    The parties have a mutual interest in assuring that consumers perceive their products as distinct.

    The parties have mutually resolved the issues addressed in the lawsuit in a manner that eliminates potential confusion about product origin and resolves the lawsuit in a mutually acceptable way.

    To the extent West Sixth in any way represented that Magic Hat filed a frivolous lawsuit, that Magic Hat initiated litigation improperly, that Magic Hat was unresponsive in negotiating a resolution, that Cerveceria Costa Rica was itself involved in the dispute or its resolution, that Magic Hat claimed ownership of the numeral 6, that Magic Hat sued West Sixth after West Sixth had already acceded to its demands, that Magic Hat has no Vermont presence, or that Magic Hat sought to recover for or enjoin West Sixth from truthful public statements, such representations are retracted. West Sixth regrets that it in any manner communicated any inaccuracies, and hereby corrects those errors.

    Both Magic Hat and West Sixth have agreed that this joint statement will be the last public communication from either side regarding the resolved dispute.

    Each wishes the other good fortune and continued success.

The battle of beer logos is over.

West Sixth Brewing Co. and Brewer Magic Hat have settled a federal lawsuit that Magic Hat filed last month against West Sixth, claiming trademark infringement.

Magic Hat filed the lawsuit May 16 in U.S. District Court in Lexington, saying West Sixth sold beer using color, trademarks and designs "that closely resemble and are confusingly similar to" the designs used by Magic Hat for several years.

On Thursday afternoon, West Sixth posted a new logo on its website and Facebook page. The new logo does not have the "dingbat" star that was one point of contention in Magic Hat's lawsuit. The word "company" also was removed from the outside of the logo, which says "West Sixth Brewing" and "Lexington, Kentucky."

A federal court document signed Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert K. Wier said that on Wednesday "the Court conducted a settlement conference in this matter. The conference resolved the case." An order entered Wednesday was sealed.

Ben Self, co-owner of West Sixth and attorneys for both sides declined to comment Thursday, however, the companies issued a joint statement.

The statement said the brewers "have a mutual interest in assuring that consumers perceive their products as distinct" and have "mutually resolved the issues addressed in the lawsuit in a manner that eliminates potential confusion about product origin and resolves the lawsuit in a mutually acceptable way."

The settlement also addresses Magic Hat's motion for a preliminary injunction against West Sixth Brewing Co., for allegedly causing Magic Hat "enormous financial damage" with a "social media smear campaign."

Last month, West Sixth officials launched a social media blitz, including an online petition, to demand that Magic Hat drop its lawsuit against West Sixth and stop "corporate bullying."

By the end of May, West Sixth reported that more than 17,000 people had signed the petition.

The statement released Wednesday addressed "representations" on the part of West Sixth.

"To the extent West Sixth in any way represented that Magic Hat filed a frivolous lawsuit, that Magic Hat initiated litigation improperly, that Magic Hat was unresponsive in negotiating a resolution, that Cerveceria Costa Rica was itself involved in the dispute or its resolution, that Magic Hat claimed ownership of the numeral 6, that Magic Hat sued West Sixth after West Sixth had already acceded to its demands, that Magic Hat has no Vermont presence, or that Magic Hat sought to recover for or enjoin West Sixth from truthful public statements, such representations are retracted," the statement said.

The statement said West Sixth "regrets that it in any manner communicated any inaccuracies, and hereby corrects those errors."

The statement said that both Magic Hat and West Sixth "have agreed that this joint statement will be the last public communication from either side regarding the resolved dispute. Each wishes the other good fortune and continued success."

In terms of winners and losers, the resolution was a split decision in the eyes of Will Montague, a Lexington lawyer who deals with intellectual-property issues.

"I think Magic Hat probably got a moral victory in the courtroom, from a legal standpoint, just by getting a minor change to West Sixth's logo," Montague said.

However, Montague gave West Sixth the victory outside the courtroom. Because "it seems to me that West Sixth had a huge victory because of the very skillful social-media campaign it conducted, which is relatively new, at least around here," Montague said.

But the social-media campaign "was a gamble on West Sixth's part," Montague said. "If they had not settled, and if West Sixth had to go through complex litigation with a much bigger company and a much better-funded company, the social-media campaign might have come back to bite it.

"Here, though, the way it worked out, it seems to me that West Sixth has gotten an enormous amount of largely positive exposure. Magic Hat, for the most part, has taken kind of a beating in the public's eye."

Montague said he wouldn't necessarily advise a client to aggressively fight back with social media.

"It always depends on the client and how skilled they are," Montague said. "I don't mind clients doing it if they think it might have a positive effect. I just ask them to run things by me before they publish them."

David Fleenor, another Lexington lawyer who deals with intellectual property issues, said "you can't really tell who won."

"There's going to be a settlement agreement that's going to be confidential, and we're never going to see the exact parameters of that," Fleenor said. "If all they did was remove the star and nobody's paying anybody's else's fees or anything like that, I can see that this isn't that bad a deal for West Sixth. They're making a slight change to their logo and nothing else."


Official statement

West Sixth & Magic Hat

The parties have a mutual interest in assuring that consumers perceive their products as distinct.

The parties have mutually resolved the issues addressed in the lawsuit in a manner that eliminates potential confusion about product origin and resolves the lawsuit in a mutually acceptable way.

To the extent West Sixth in any way represented that Magic Hat filed a frivolous lawsuit, that Magic Hat initiated litigation improperly, that Magic Hat was unresponsive in negotiating a resolution, that Cerveceria Costa Rica was itself involved in the dispute or its resolution, that Magic Hat claimed ownership of the numeral 6, that Magic Hat sued West Sixth after West Sixth had already acceded to its demands, that Magic Hat has no Vermont presence, or that Magic Hat sought to recover for or enjoin West Sixth from truthful public statements, such representations are retracted. West Sixth regrets that it in any manner communicated any inaccuracies, and hereby corrects those errors.

Both Magic Hat and West Sixth have agreed that this joint statement will be the last public communication from either side regarding the resolved dispute.

Each wishes the other good fortune and continued success.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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