Start-up Boston Beer Works went to court against Boston Beer Company to defend its name.
What's in a name? Try 18 months of litigation and $100,000 worth of nonrecoverable funds. That's what Boston Beer Works (BBW), an upstart brewery/ restau-rant, spent defending its name since opening for business in Boston's Fenway district, in April 1992. The brewery-pub's foe? Ten-year-old Boston Beer Co. (BBC), better known as the maker of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Boston Lightship beer, and Samuel Adams Boston Ale -- all of which are unregistered trademarks. Ironically, Boston Beer Co. touts itself as the underdog of the beer industry. ("Big beer companies spill more than I make all year," says BBC's president and founder Jim Koch in a popular ad.) Last November a U.S. court of appeals ruled in favor of the start-up's being able to continue to use the terms Boston and Boston Beer in its name and the names of its beers. "We didn't back down," says BBW's president, Joseph Slesar, who cofounded the company along with his brother Stephan and Boston restaurateur Marc Kadish. Early on, Koch says, he tried to persuade BBW to use the name Boston Brew Works, and he thinks that the start-up chose litigation rather than a compromise purely for publicity reasons. "My question," asks Koch, "is, Did they get $100,000 worth of publicity?"