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Trade mark stoush looms over ‘Pacific Ale’

May 8, 2015

Following similar disputes overseas, a row could be looming over the use of the name Pacific Ale, with a Melbourne brewer claiming it as a generic style.

Stone & Wood's registered trade mark. "Pacific Ale" itself is under application.

Stone & Wood’s registered trade mark. “Pacific Ale” itself is under application.

Brunswick-based Thunder Road Brewing has recently taken to heavily promoting a new beer labelled Thunder Road PACIFIC ALE, as part of what is describes as its ‘double fermentation’ range of beer. The name Pacific Ale is closely associated with the Stone & Wood brewery, which took the name for its flagship beer when it changed the name from Draught Ale in 2010.

The Byron Bay-based brewery holds the trade mark (right) which includes the word Pacific Ale, with IP Australia records showing the application was lodged on 18 November 2010 and entered on the register 26 August 2011. Stone & Wood also has a pending application for a trade mark over the words “Pacific Ale” with a divisional date of 2 August 2011. A divisional application is a second application based on a parent application, often as a result of objections raised during the trade mark process. An application can be divided to allow the trade mark to proceed to acceptance for a limited sub-set of the earlier application, while still being able to progress with the remaining pending application.

Thunder Road Brewing Company's current Facebook advertisement for its beer.

Thunder Road Brewing Company’s current Facebook advertisement for its beer.

Australian Brews News contacted Stone & Wood to ask whether they had issue with the Thunder Road label and was provided the following statement:

“We are aware of it and have taken the appropriate steps in response to it, including picking up the phone and having a brewer to brewer discussion.

“Pacific Ale is Stone & Wood’s brand and we are taking the appropriate steps to protect it.  The beer we sell under the brand Pacific Ale doesn’t fit into any of the established styles of beer.  It has its own distinctive style and we have marketed it that way.
We have been in touch with other brewers about our rights in the Pacific Ale brand.  Other than that, at this stage it is not appropriate for us to say any more about our ongoing efforts to protect the rights we have worked hard to establish in the Pacific Ale brand.”

Thunder Road Brewing Company replied to questions from Australian Brews News with the following statement:

“We’re really excited about our new Double Fermentation Series range of bottled beers.  The range includes our interpretation of six styles: a pilsner, an amber, a pale ale, a pacific ale, a golden and an IPA.  Each is twice fermented and bottle conditioned, for great taste and maximum shelf life.

The pacific ale is just another style in our range – there is no trade mark issue. Stone & Wood has always marketed it as a style – even its head brewer was quoted in the Age as saying:   ‘We called it Pacific Ale to reflect both the general region we live in and the fact it’s a unique beer style.”

As the statement above shows, Thunder Road claims the Pacific Ale as a generic style, and the brewery’s web site claims “Pacific Ale is a relatively new beer style which has increased in popularity since 2001.”

However, Australian Brews News inquiries can find no record of any recognised beer competition, including the Australian International Beer Awards, that lists Pacific Ale as a category or sub-style within a category. Initial searches of international journal and newspaper articles can find no reference to a “Pacific ale” style prior to 2010, though “Pacific-style pale ale” has started to gain some usage as a generic descriptor since Pacific Ale’s success in the same vein as ‘new world pilsener’. No other Australian brewery appears to regard Pacific Ale as a generic style name, though the Sydney-based Australian Brewery produces an Australian Ale it calls The Pale Ale that it describes as a Pacific Pale Ale, though last year entered it into the Australian International Beer Awards in the Australian Style Pale Ale class, where it won silver.

Australian Brews News asked Thunder Road Brewing Company whether it has entered its Pacific Ale into the 2015 awards and if so in what style category, but was advised that no comment could be made until after the awards were announced.

Thunder Road Brewing has a notable history of trade mark disputes, having famously sought to wrest ownership of a number of CUB trade marks it claimed were abandoned.

Regardless of the outcome of this particular issue, it’s not the only parallel between Thunder Road Brewing Company’s marketing and that of other breweries.

Thunder Road Brewing Company has adopted a slogan for its Pacific Ale similar to one used by German brewery Paulaner.

Thunder Road Brewing Company has adopted a slogan for its Pacific Ale similar to one used by German brewery Paulaner.

Full Disclosure. Thunder Road Brewing Company is a former financial sponsor of Australian Brews News and has provided travel to the author. Stone & Wood is a current sponsor of Australian Brews News and has sponsored beer tastings by the author.



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13 Responses to Trade mark stoush looms over ‘Pacific Ale’

  1. Jane Coltare on July 13, 2015 at 8:35 am

    It certainly is a bit cheeky naming an ale from overseas (nowhere near these shores) Pacific Ale, but at the end of the day that’s all it is – a name.

  2. HopGeekCarroll on May 11, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    This is a bit silly. Beer styles come first and then over time they are included into competitions, not the other way around. If you don’t allow for new beer styles to grow and expand, there won’t be growth in craft beer…

  3. Brew Monster on May 11, 2015 at 9:51 am

    I am a home brewer and think it is a bit ridiculous that S&W want to make “Pacific Ale” only their term… I’ve used Pacific Ale yeast many times from White Labs, so if there is a beer yeast called Pacific Ale, how can they claim they are the only ones that can use that name to describe a beer? http://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp041-pacific-ale-yeast

  4. Jean Claude on May 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    A bit cheeky to call a beer brewed and bottled in Belgium a “pacific ale”

    • Stu on July 13, 2015 at 5:07 pm


  5. Shaun on May 9, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Hey Thunder Road how about you try and create a beer that is actually half decent instead of copying brands?

    • Stu on May 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      They are back to back winners of Champion Medium-Sized Brewery of Australia. I think they can brew alright!

      But, yeh, this is a bit of a blatant land grab. Pretty unfortunate because I thought Thunder Road were the standout brewery at GABS 2014. I want to like them but this is poor form.

      • Editor on May 24, 2015 at 9:16 am

        Cheers Stu. That’s the great thing about the AIBA, it’s not a popularity content. Good beer gets recognised. It’s marketing and branding and how we feel about a business that help us decide whether we buy it.

  6. Steve Coughlan on May 8, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    This is clearly not a generic term, and Thunder Road should pull their head in.

    If Stone & Wood don’t fight this, they run the risk of the term being ruled generic.

    Having said that, isn’t their Pacific Ale just a light Pale Ale?

  7. joe blow on May 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Trade marks were not an issue for stone and wood when they created the Mash Collective against the wishes of Mash Brewing.
    Karma is a Bitch.

  8. Mason Hell-Cat on May 8, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    What I really like about S&W is the way they handle things like this – especially with the line ‘picking up the phone and having a brewer to brewer discussion’. They keep it real, personal, and informal.
    But surely, everyone immediately associates ‘Pacific Ale’ with Stone and Wood. They own it as far as I’m concerned.

  9. Mitch on May 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I am sick of reading articles about trademark arguments from thunder road. They need to just shut up and brew good beers (if they can)

  10. Adam Hallinan on May 8, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    That’s disappointing from Thunder Road. I liked that they were taking on the big boys – not liking this at all

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