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Retailer sues new O.C. brewing company over use of name

A trademark brawl is brewing on the shore this summer.

The complaint says the owners of Shorebilly Brewing Co., above, knew a year before opening that the Shorebilly name had been already been trademarked.

An Ocean City retailer is suing the town’s new brewery, Shorebilly Brewing Co., for trademark infringement.

The retail company, Teal Bay Alliances LLC, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, saying the bar is infringing on its trademark by using the Shorebilly name on a restaurant as well as on T-shirts and gear.

Teal Bay sells clothes, stickers, mugs and other merchandise with the Shorebilly name and logo, a cartoon ocean wave. The merchandise is sold on its website, shorebillyusa.com, and at retail locations throughout Ocean City.

The company was founded by a local husband-wife team, Marcus and Barbara Rogerson, in October 2008. The company’s trademark application for “Shorebilly” was approved in October 2011 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“What [the brewery’s name] does, really, is it takes the control over the Shorebilly mark out of my client’s hands,” said Teal Bay Alliances’ attorney Samuel D. Littlepage of Dickinson Wright PLLC in Washington D.C. “Quite frankly, it hurts their … reputation.”

Shorebilly Brewing Co. did not respond to requests for comment.

Shorebilly Brewing Co. opened to much fanfare in May on the Boardwalk at 10th Street next to Hammerheads On the Beach — both owned by Danny Robinson.

Ocean City’s only brewery has received a lot of attention and press since its opening, which has caused confusion for the retail company, Littlepage said. He said customers often think the two are connected and others think the retail company is infringing on the brewery’s name.

“The real problem now becomes the bar and brewery has become so well-known that now when people see my client, they think he is trying to take a free ride on the bar and brewery,” Littlepage said.

According to Teal Bay’s complaint, the brewing company filed an application with the patent office to register “Shorebilly” as a trademark, but the office notified Shorebilly Brewing in June 2012 that Teal Bay already had a registered trademark on the name.

Teal Bay first heard about Shorebilly Brewing Co. last fall and sent a letter to the brewing company protesting the use of the name.

“I recognize the inconvenience now for [Robinson], but this is something he could have avoided,” Littlepage said.

Teal Bay sent another letter last month after finding out the brewing company was selling clothing with “Shorebilly Brewing Co.” printed on it. The brewing company did not respond, Littlepage said.

“[Teal Bay] were the ones who first used the mark here in Ocean City,” Littlepage said. “Danny Robinson and Shorebilly Brewing Co. knew of our client and they knew of the federal regulations long before they ever opened the bar and brewery.”

In its lawsuit, Teal Bay asserts that the names are confusingly similar in “sound, appearance and meaning” and are likely to cause confusion.

The suit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against Shorebilly Brewing Co.’s use of the name, including in an Internet domain name, as a trade name for a bar or in any of its advertising. Teal Bay also asks for all profits made from sales in goods or services connected to the word, “Shorebilly.”

Teal Bay is suing for two counts of federal trademark infringement, one count of federal unfair competition and one count of common law trademark infringement and unfair competition under Maryland law.

“We’d like Mr. Robertson to select another name,” Littlepage said. “He owns the adjacent bar, Hammerheads. Why didn’t he call it Hammerheads? That seemed to be a perfectly suitable name.”