Heineken puts legal pressure on Cloudwater to rename low calorie soda brand

Manchester-based brewery Cloudwater is facing an expensive legal row with Heineken over the name of its new soft drinks label.

(Photo: Cloudwater)

Cloudwater is rebranding its new non-alcoholic soda range after Heineken accused the former of trademark infringement.

Cloudwater’s owner, Paul Jones, initially debuted the drinks under the name Good Call Soda at a festival in London this year dedicated to low and no-alcohol drinks.

The sodas are made with ingredients from the brewing process such as hops, so have “all of the flavour” of craft beer with no alcohol.

Speaking at the event, Jones told db that the range has been designed as a separate entity from Cloudwater to avoid confusion with its line of beers.

“From minors to people avoiding alcohol for health or religious reasons, the risk of confusion on a retail shelf, in a bar fridge, or even online isn’t one we’re happy to take,” he said, adding that he felt it was “important that we can lead with a clear message that doesn’t complicate or dilute what we do at Cloudwater Brew Co.”

Lawyers at DLA Piper, representing Heineken, sent a letter to Jones last week, accusing the Manchester brewer of using a name that has already been trademarked by Heineken for its beer brand, Foster’s.

Heineken applied for a trademark for the phrase “Good Call” in 2010 for use in a TV ad campaign for Foster’s.

The campaign ran between 2010 and 2014, but Foster’s brought the adverts back to UK TV screens in April this year.

A Heineken spokesperson told db that Foster’s “has used ‘Good Call’ as its primary marketing campaign since 2010.”

Heineken said it had invested close to £4 million on the Foster’s ‘Good Call’ advertising campaign this year, which launched in April.

“As a result of extensive investment in the ‘Good Call’ brand for almost ten years, we’re proud of the reputation we’ve established, with consumers associating it exclusively with Foster’s.

“The use of the ‘Good Call’ name by any other beverage producer is likely to cause confusion, possibly leading consumers to believe a product with the same name is an extension of the Foster’s® brand. We wrote to Cloudwater Brewery on this basis.”

In a blog post on the Cloudwater website, Jones said: “our intention is not to cause confusion in the market at all, nor occupy space that they may wish to occupy in the future (with ultra low, or alcohol free versions of Foster’s Radlers, should such products arise, for example).”

The brewer has changed the name of the soft drinks label to Cloudwater Soda, and is currently “pushing back a bill to the tune of thousands of pounds” for Heineken’s legal fees, Jones said.

Cloudwater is trying to reach a compromise with Heineken, so that retailers who have ordered the first batch can sell what they already have, rather than Cloudwater recalling and relabelling the products, “leading to much disruption and further cost,” it said.

The sodas are currently sold through a number of independent retailers including Beer Merchants, Hop Burns & Black, and Honest Brew.

Jones said the brewery is “trying to ensure as little disruption to our trade customers as possible.”

The Cloudwater boss did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the drinks business.

Larger breweries have already started producing their own beer-flavoured soft drinks. Last year, California-based brewery Lagunitas, which is owned by Heineken, launched a non-alcoholic sparkling water inspired by its flagship IPA.

Attractively-named “Hop Water”, (since changed to “Hoppy Refresher”), it contains no alcohol, no calories, and zero carbohydrates, but is “made using everything we know about hops.”

Japanese drinks giant Suntory also announced plans to sell a clear, non-alcoholic ‘beer’ in May 2018, packaged in a plastic bottle which it hopes will be particularly popular with office workers.

Molson Coors also launched a hop-flavoured sparkling water of its own in Ocado last month.

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