Breweries battle over moose-themed mascots

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) It's being called a beer battle across the border. A Vermont brewpub is now being sued because of the moose on their logo.

"The intent was never obviously to mimic Moosehead or anyone else," said Dale Patterson, the owner of Hop' n Moose Brewing Company in Rutland.

But Moosehead Brewing Company in Canada says there's only room for one moose in the beer market and they're taking Patterson to federal court to prove it. "I haven't really ever thought that our name was similar, certainly to theirs, or anyone else's really," Patterson said.

The court papers say Moosehead has trademarked the word "Moose" in any way related to brewed alcoholic beverages. They sent WCAX a statement that read in part:

"As our name suggests, the moose has been an icon of Moosehead Breweries for decades, and we own multiple U.S. trademark registrations for the words 'Moose' and 'Moosehead,' as well as moose-based images."

So are they allowed to claim an animal as their own? Justin McCabe, an intellectual property lawyer says the two companies both have similar logos and sell similar products, which can cause confusion for the consumer, and harm the image of their company. "If something unfortunate happens there, that can be a negative reputational impact on Moosehead Brewery," McCabe said.

We've seen similar cases in Vermont where what you'd think is a common term is owned by someone else. Just this year Long Trail Brewing sued Burton over the phrase 'Take a Hike,' and recently went after another clothing company over the same phrase.

McCabe says its pretty common for companies to sue for copyright infringment. He feels in this case, the big company has an advantage. "Moosehead is a prominent name. It certainly was known throughout the United States, so they have a fairly strong case in my opinion," he said.

The lawsuit claims customers are confused between the two. We couldn't find anyone on the streets who was.

"I mean you can tell they're both Mooses, but it's definitely not the same logo," said Christopher Cormier of Rutland.

"No, not at all. This is a silhouette and this is just the head of a moose," said Andrea DiMedio of Shrewsbury.

Patterson says he thinks they're different enough. "Everybody feels kind of like I do, like we're not really seeing the connection. Maybe there is one, but we don't see it," he said.