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Dave Benfield, president of DuClaw Brewing Co., is shown with his fermentation tanks in March 2000, two years after the company began brewing Sawtooth Belgian White Ale and Black Jack Stout. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

DuClaw, rival in bitter fight

Md.-based brewery claims infringement of trademarks on Sawtooth, Black Jack

DuClaw Brewing Co.’s Sawtooth Belgian White Ale contains Curacao bitter orange peel and crushed coriander; its Black Jack Stout, “a swirl of dark chocolate, coffee, smoky malt and fruit flavors.”

Last week, the Baltimore-based company added a new ingredient to both brews — a dash of litigation against a Colorado competitor.

DuClaw has accused Left Hand Brewing Co. of trademark infringement with its Sawtooth Ale and Black Jack Porter beers, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The complaint, filed by George S. Robinson IV of Robinson|Robinson LLC in Bel Air, asks the court to prohibit Left Hand from selling and promoting its beers. It also seeks damages in an unspecified amount.

The suit was filed more than three years after DuClaw asked Left Hand to cease and desist using the names for its beers.

“To date the parties have been unable to resolve the dispute,” the complaint states.

Emily Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Left Hand, said the company was aware of the filing and is “working with DuClaw” but declined further comment.

DuClaw, founded in 1996 by Dave Benfield, began using the Sawtooth and Black Jack Stout names in 1998 and received trademarks for them in 2002, according to the complaint. Left Hand entered the Maryland market after that time, the complaint alleges.

Left Hand, based outside Denver in Longmont, Colo., was founded in 1994 and has been making its Sawtooth and Black Jack beers since then, according to the company’s website. The lawsuit alleges Left Hand never obtained its own trademark registration.

“The significance of the Defendant entering into Maryland is that Plaintiff is based out of Maryland and after successful and expensive marketing campaigns, its products using the uncontested, registered marks Sawtooth and Black Jack Stout enjoy a strong reputation among Maryland consumers,” the complaint states.

DuClaw’s lawsuit accuses Left Hand of trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and common law injury to business reputation.

DuClaw makes dozens of beers and operates four restaurants in Maryland.

The case is DuClaw Brewery LLC v. Left Hand Brewing Co., 1:14-cv-00908-CCB. It has been assigned to Judge Catherine C. Blake.


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