The Rip-Off Artists


Craft beer is developing a cultural problem. The constant and blatant process of ripping off the intellectual property of other industries is pervasive to the point of being normalized.

Today, news of

Followers of #CraftBeer on Twitter see literally a daily stream of rip-offs, plagiarism, and outright theft of intellectual property and copyright infringement. It is so constant and pervasive that it is becoming normal. Even the lampooning of other brands via tongue in cheek references and silly labels has become embarrassingly frequent.

Are some people at these brands completely bereft of a unique idea? Is craft beer where professional marketing and originality of branding has come to die?

These are serious questions.

Craft beer is a premium product. Sold to consumers as being better than the macros. Handmade with select high-quality ingredients. Made by people you can meet and know. People in your community.

But doing this low rent rip-off labeling shows that you are lowbrow, not premium. It shows that you as a brewer don’t respect other people’s hard work. That knowing you and meeting you as a brewer might not be that great for me as a customer.

A not insignificant portion of craft beer’s businesses needs to grow up and start acting like legit business entities that respect other people’s property, hard work, and the law. Because right now, too many are acting like the guys hawking imitation T-shirts in stadium parking lots before the big game and guys with card tables at NYC street corners selling knockoff Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton bags.

The story of the last three to four decades of beer is predicated on what is a revolutionary and quintessentially American product. It is founded on innovation and creativity.

What happened?

And if you think the guy selling phony gameday T-shirts and the guy slinging cheap ass imitation Birkin bags out of the back of a van is an unfair comparison just read this excellent story by Bryan D. Roth for Seriously, go read it. I’ll wait.

These games are pathetic. Moving quickly to beat claims and dropping C&D letters into the trash because your limited run of cans already sold out is an embarrassing business practice.

Modist Brewing brewed Dilly Dilly DIPA and then got owned via a then viral C&D order from ABI. Modist Brewing framed the parchment and hung it on their wall. WTF? Modist Brewing… You got clowned by the big guy, used to further their marketing campaign, and then hang it on the wall as a trophy?

Craft beer is better than this. These are gimmicks. Gimmicks are not going to be sustainable over the long run. More importantly, these gimmicks open a brewery up to lawsuits and damages that they can ill afford in a tightening market. If you think a new brewery has it tough meeting its debt payments now, tack on a treble damages award. At that point, it will be 


I am starting to suspect that Greg Koch’s PR campaign lawsuit against MillerCoors is not just going to backfire on Stone Brewing Company via the countersuit. It might have the effect of shining a spotlight on the entire industry that has some pretty scummy practices related to IP.

Look at the label in the instant matter above. That chain around the deranged Hop Walter White’s neck is of a GABF medal and it states: “2016 GABF Bronze Medal American IPA” right beside it. This puts the Brewers’ Association in a tough spot. It could appear to some that they are tacitly approving of this type of copyright infringement or worse they are tangentially a part of it. This is a bad position for the BA.

When is the Brewers’ Association going to do something about it? Wake up and put your foot down.

If you think this is overly harsh… so be it. I can’t stand by and watch some of these breweries act like this anymore. It is embarrassing and bad for the industry as a whole.

Consumers need to step up here too. Stop buying these rip-offs. I am sure I have bought too many of these as well. If you go through my Untappd check-ins, I know I have bought products that are blatant rip-offs.

A shout out to Brenden Palferyman, Esq. His twitter feed is on fire these days with IP issues in craft beer and you really should be following him.


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