Retailers in stoush over ‘cartel’

Beer Cartel and Craft Cartel

Online retailer Beer Cartel has gone public about an ongoing intellectual property dispute with a new competitor, Craft Cartel.

In an impassioned Facebook post, Beer Cartel co-founder Richard Kelsey last week unleashed his frustration at the similarity in branding of his online rival, which was founded in the second half of 2016.

“We started Beer Cartel way back in 2009 – we were around before Dan Murphy’s even had an online store,” wrote Kelsey.

“Unfortunately, it appears that Craft Cartel is trying to piggyback off our name and reputation, which has been a massive kick in the guts.

“We’ve already seen significant confusion between people mixing up the two businesses. They have tried to register Craft Cartel as a trademark and it has been rejected because of the similarity in names.”

IP Australia records show that ‘Craft Cartel’ received an adverse report in December 2016.

No confusion, says rival

Craft Cartel is a new online venture from Wenty North Liquor, a bottleshop that began trading in western Sydney in 1998, founder Ben Malouf told Brews News.

“Our bricks and mortar store, Wenty North Liquor has been building a strong craft beer range for over seven years,” he said.

“Taking our craft beer online was the next natural step for us, as it is for many retail businesses looking to expand.”

Malouf said that from the outset, it has been Craft Cartel’s intention to sell not only beer, but also craft spirits and wine.

“It’s for this reason that we included the word ‘craft’ in our business name and we felt Craft Cartel had a great ring to it,” he said.

“We registered the business name with ASIC as required by law, before moving onto branding, packaging, marketing collateral and website development.

“We appreciate a similarity to the name Beer Cartel, in the same way as Liquor Stax, Liquorland, Mr Liquor etc co-exist in the marketplace.

“We believe that customers are savvy and buy from a store (online or otherwise) because of the range, customer service and value.

“We pride ourselves on all of these elements and are not aware of any significant confusion to date,” Malouf said.

Cease and desist

Kelsey told Brews News his store regularly receives calls from customers enquiring about orders that they have in fact made with Craft Cartel, which he said is clear evidence that confusion is occurring.

He said he tried on numerous occasions to contact Malouf to discuss the situation, but the correspondence went ignored.

According to Kelsey, Beer Cartel subsequently sent multiple cease and desist letters that also fell on deaf ears.

“To see someone try to leverage off all the work myself, Geoff [Huens, Beer Cartel co-founder] and all our great staff have done is absolutely gutting,” Kelsey wrote on Facebook.

“We (Beer Cartel) are really supportive of the industry as a whole and want to see it thrive.

“There is room for multiple retailers to operate within it, but trading with a name likely to confuse doesn’t quite seem quite to be in the spirit of this awesome industry,” he said.

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