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Brewery forced to change beer name after 'cease-and-desist'

SEATTLE -- A Seattle microbrewery is changing the name of one of their most popular beers after a California-based brewer sent a "cease-and-desist" letter, citing a trademark.

Ballard-based Peddler Brewing Company recently renamed their Tangerine Wheat to Tangerine Hefeweizen after receiving a letter from Lost Coast Brewing Company. The Eureka, California-based brewer has a trademark on the term "Tangerine Wheat," it said, arguing the name is "a well-recognized mark in (the) brewery's production, sales, and related services."

"(The company) has expanded substantial sums in promotional efforts to create a distinctive identity with this produced beer product," the letter continues, "which is threatened by your unauthorized use of the TANGERINE WHEAT mark."

"The name tangerine wheat to us describes exactly what the beer is. It's a wheat, brewed with tangerine," countered Dave Keller, co-owner of Peddler Brewing. "We never even thought that could possibly be trademarked."

Peddler, which just celebrated its two-year anniversary, is run by three people. Beers are distributed within 15 miles of the brewery's location, Keller said, or "as far as (my brother) is willing to drive."

Lost Coast, by contrast, is the nation's 33rd-largest brewery, distributing to 22 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada, according to its website.

Representatives for Lost Coast didn't return calls for comment Monday.

Keller said his company complied with the request -- and found the letter flattering, in some ways.

"It was almost a little bit of validation to what we were doing that this large brewery from down in California decided we were threatening in some way and needed to send us this letter," Keller said. "They shouldn't have been granted that trademark, I don't think, but they were and it's within their right to do that. I'm not bitter about it."

A fan of the Ballard brewer suggested they call the new beer 'Not Tangerine Wheat.'

"It wouldn't work, because it still has the words 'tangerine wheat,' which, they're very specific -- you cannot use on a beer label," Keller said.

Keller was asked if he would get in trouble for saying those words out loud.

"I hope not. I don't know," he said, laughing. "I'll consult our non-existent legal team and they'll get back to me."

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