No more Yellow Belly Beer for brewing

Yellow Belly beer is an 11 percent stout brewed by Buxton Brewery (based in Derbyshire) and Omnipollo (based in Sweden) (‘the breweries’). The concept behind the design of the product (white paper packaging with two black graphic holes), is supposed to parody the design of the racial extremist group the Ku Klux Klan. Thus, this product hit the market with a unique statement, design and flavour (a peanut butter and biscuit-flavoured imperial stout). It started brewing the product in 2014.  Unfortunately, the company Batemans Brewery brewed a product with a similar name.

Batemans Brewery have been brewing beers since 1874 and have a strong connection to their native town Lincolnshire. They launched a beer called ‘Yella Belly’ (a vanilla pale, with its current integration, Yella Belly Gold (a 3.9 amber ale). The brewery was inspired by the colloquial Lincolnshire term ‘yellowbellies’ which is used to describe an individual born and bred in the native town.

Buxton Brewery and Omnipollo stated that they drew the colour yellow from a hat containing all the colours of the rainbow. The colour yellow was taken to symbolise cowardice and they became inspired to design a product to illustrate the cowardice of extreme racist groups. However, as noble as the intention of this product was, it illustrated that the breweries had not done the relevant due diligence before registering this trade mark. As a result, the matter was referred EUIPO to decide about the similarity of the trade mark.

In a surprise decision, Buxton Brewery and Omnipollo decided to halt the production of their Yellow Belly beer in the UK. The breweries stated that after an alleged conversation with Batemans Brewery, they became aware that there was no way to retain the name ‘Yellow Belly’ without future legal dispute. Nevertheless, the breweries still assert that their product was different and distinct from Batemans Brewery’s ‘Yella Belly Gold’. Furthermore, the breweries believe that they have been brewing the product since 2014 without ‘any apparent confusion’ to the public.

Since the announcement by the breweries, Batemans Brewery have been receiving some negative feedback from the public. Some members of the public felt that the breweries were bullied into ending the production of the product in the UK. As a result, Stuart Bateman (Managing Director of Bateman Brewery) stated that he had not received further communication from the breweries regarding this matter. Mr Bateman wrote on the company website that ‘[they have] a track record of sharing beer names that [they] have registered, [they] happily swapped brewing knowledge and advice with other brewing start-ups, [they have] even shared Batemans yeast with other brewers.’[1] Consequently, was it a smart commercial decision for Buxton Brewery and Omnipollo to unilaterally decide to stop production of Yellow Belly in the UK?Â

The breweries have an agreement with Sapsucker Farms Yellow Belly Cidery in Minnesota to allow it to continue using the name Yellow Belly in the US.


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