Out of Beer Names, Brewers Get Into Legal Trouble

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By the end of May, a Fort Collins brewery will change its name permanently from Zwei Brüder Brewing to Zwei Brewing in order to avoid a costly lawsuit.

Just a few months after opening their business last August, brothers Kirk and Eric Lombardi received a cease and desist letter from a Chicago-based brewery called Two Brothers Brewing Company.

“We could have taken them to court,” said Kirk Lombardi. “But really we would have had to invest a lot of money in a legal fight that could have been used in more positive places.”

The Lombardis thought they were safe with the name Zwei Brüder, or “two brothers,” in German, but their dispute involves a deeper level of U.S. trademark law — the doctrine of foreign equivalents — which prevents the same name from being used in the same trademark category, even in two different languages.

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