If 2020 were a beer, it would be a disappointing drink consisting of mainly foam in a takeaway plastic container. Despite the trials and tribulations that 2020 has thrown into the mix, the recent collaboration between the award winning Leeds brewers Northern Monk and one of the first microbreweries in Cumbria (Hesket Newmarket Brewery) with the launch of their new beer ‘Scafell’, this has demonstrated the benefits of putting trade mark disputes to one side, and of working together to continue the growth of independent microbreweries in the midst of a challenging economy.
The closure of pubs throughout the UK’s first and second lockdown and the subsequent implementation of a reduced capacity on their reopening, has had a devastating effect on the sales incurred by microbreweries. Whilst a number of larger breweries have been able to adapt to focus on internet and off-trades sales, smaller breweries have struggled to do so and to accommodate such an adjustment, lacking the necessary infrastructure to take their business online to directly target the average consumer with home delivery services.
Further compounding the problem has been the lack of Government support received by the brewery sector. Whilst the pub sector has received grants and a VAT cut, breweries have not received the same level of support in comparison. There can be no doubt that smaller breweries are amongst the most heavily impacted businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The potential trade mark dispute between Northern Monk and Hesket Newmarket Brewery first came to light when the Cumbrian brewery brought the use of ‘Scafell’ in the name of a recently launched Northern Monk beer to their attention. Having already registered the word ‘Scafell’ as a trade mark in the UK in relation to beer and ale the Cumbrian brewery were entitled to prevent Northern Monk from using the mark ‘Scafell’ for their new range of beer. What could have resulted in a conflict between the two breweries, has been resolved in a uplifting demonstration of cooperation, culminating in the collaboration of ‘Scafell’ and the sharing of the sales of the new product.
As a result of the collaboration and Northern Monk’s reputation in the sector, ‘Scafell’ is now on sale in Tesco stores across the UK, providing Hesket Newmarket Brewery with a wider reach and distribution.
As an alternative to embarking on a potentially lengthy and costly legal dispute over the use of the ‘Scafell’ trade mark in the midst of a challenging period for microbreweries, Northern Monk and Hesket Newmarket Brewery’s collaboration has allowed for Northern Monk to support Hesket Newmarket after a challenging year. In an era of uncertainty, the common sense approach to the potential trade mark dispute must be applauded as a shining example of how both parties can seek to benefit from potential adversity through collaboration. This clearly demonstrates Northern Monk’s willingness and commitment to support others in the industry, by making use of their brand reputation and distribution networks to assist microbreweries such as Hesket Newmarket.
Although there are still a great number of issues facing microbreweries as a result of Covid-19, as a result of the collaboration with Northern Monk, for Hesket Newmarket Brewery, the 2020 beer is back in a glass with a perfect pour. And that beer is ‘Scafell’.