Yet another craft beer trademark case is making headlines: Colorado's Left Hand Brewing is attempting to trademark the term "nitro"—as in, nitrogen. The Longmont company is thus far the only US brewer to bottle with nitrogen as opposed to carbon dioxide, something it says it achieved at a steep cost: years of effort, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. "We have a bottle that is pretty unique," president Eric Wallace tells the Denver Post. But here's what's not unique: Plenty of breweries pour nitro beer on draft, and others have announced or implied plans for nitro beer in bottles or cans. If the trademark is granted, Left Hand could send cease-and-desist letters to those breweries, a lawyer explains.
The Week sees nitro as a "descriptor"—"imagine if, say, Budweiser tried to trademark 'refreshing,'" it quips. But Wallace says the trademark seeks to protect the name of its "Nitro Series" of beers, "not the style—not nitrogenated beers." But a rep for Anheuser-Busch—which has until June to decide if it will oppose the application—notes, "As a brewer, we have produced our own nitrogenated beers and, like many other brewers, large and small, we need to maintain the ability to identify them to consumers." (Read about another trademark case involving a popular craft brewery and a conservative icon.)