A Sydney craft brewer has won a two-year trademark battle against a subsidiary of multinational beer giant SABMiller, one of the world's largest brewing companies.
The case against Wayward Brewing Company, which produces about 30,000 litres of beer annually, was brought by SABMiller India, which argued the Wayward name was too similar to its Indian-made labels Haywards 5000 and Haywards 2000.
As a result of the victory Wayward Brewing can register the Wayward name and SABMiller India has been ordered to pay costs to the craft brewery's owner and founder Pete Philip, who described the case this week as a "David versus Goliath" battle.
Philip and wife Yvette started Wayward in Sydney's inner-west in late-2012 and now produce about eight styles of beer. It's a gypsy-style craft brewing operation, so-called because they use other companies' brewing facilities rather than establishing their own. The couple employ one salesperson part-time.
Asked why he thought SABMiller India had pursued the case Philip said even big multinationals saw a threat in the growing market-share of craft beers. While craft breweries make up just two per cent of the total Australian beer market (IBISWorld), the sector's growth runs counter to a trend of declining beer consumption, which has dropped from 141.7 litres per head in Australia at the start of the 1990s, to 93.1 litres in 2013.
Philip said there was a renaissance in full-flavoured beers in Australia and similar markets. "People don't want flavourless, yellow, fizzy liquid any more."
"If you look at the three big multinationals [SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Lion] they own just about everything," he said.
"Craft beer is the only part of the market that is growing . . . I think the big boys are frightened that their market share is going to be eroded by small craft brewers."
Philip said the case had cost him about $20,000 in lawyers' fees and lost productivity but said he expected the costs awarded to be "about $2000".
"I wish this hadn't happened," Philip said on Wednesday. "It has been incredibly stressful and expensive. But I wasn't about to lie down and let someone do something I didn't think was fair. It really got my back up."
In his written summary of the case, hearings officer Michael Kirov explained he was not satisfied that the Haywards brand was widely recognised in Australia and added "even if I were so satisfied I do not believe that the [Wayward] Mark is so similar to the HAYWARDS marks as used that deception or confusion amongst a significant or substantial number of the beer drinking public in Australia would be likely in any event".
SABMiller was contacted by goodfood.com.au for comment but did not respond by deadline.