Celebrating the quirky diversity of independent businesses in Cardiff
On the first Saturday of every month, a small courtyard just off King’s Road in Pontcanna fills with beer-loving bohemians. The tiny antiquated brewery there is usually shuttered, only the tell-tale sounds of industry from within.
Simon Docherty has had a tough time of it recently. A one man operation, he recently lost a two year legal contest against the behemoth drinks corporation Pepsi for the rights to his brand, Bare Naked Beer, which they claimed infringed the copyright to their own Naked Juice.
They could have let it slide, you’d think. But the self-contained brewer in Cardiff must have been siphoning profits from the multinational to such an extent that a prolonged legal battle was the only option.
We decided to take a visit to his open bar at the Artisan Brewery last Saturday – a rare opportunity for fans of his creations to mingle and sample his brew straight from the vat.
A bitterly cold evening with the crackle of fireworks peppering the night sky, groups of avid drinkers huddled around candlelit tables or thronged around the bar, which still boasted the Bare Naked brand proudly. With t-shirts, hoodies, a branded truck, sandwich boards and of course the brews themselves, this is a product which has become recognised and loved around the city, sold by the barrel to festivals including the Canton Crawl earlier in the year, and on draught at Gwdihw.
But Docherty is not overly concerned about the change:
“The brand isn’t very well-known outside of Cardiff, yet” he said. “That means it won’t be too difficult to make the transition. In fact, the amount of attention it has got me could be perversely beneficial”
“There is a scope for the possibility that Pepsi would let me keep the brand but it is unlikely. Basically they got me on sec. 32 of trademark law, which meant that they had to make the link between my beer and their juice. They said that because beer contains a certain amount of water, and so does juice, that the products were similar enough for mine to be infringing on their copyright.”
But the central tenet of their case was the use of the word ‘naked’. On that basis, some other brands would be wise to keep checking over their shoulder for Pepsi’s lawyers, including:
So what does the future of Artisan Brewery look like? Docherty was so adamant he would win that it has come as quite a surprise.Ever inclusive, he is offering his customers the chance to rename his product, with the successful entry winning 100 bottles of the good stuff.
“For some reason I wasn’t expecting to lose against Pepsi,” he said. “I have no idea what the new name will be, I have been racking my brains! While I do have a fall-back option, I want to open it up to other people. I will be holding a competition so that people can chip in their ideas. Hopefully it will be a bit of a secret ballot, I don’t want people just expanding on ideas they have already seen. I’ll run the competition until the end of the year, and get branding done by next March probably.”
And how has he coped with a struggle against a huge corporation? What was the cost?
“It cost loads to fight the legal battle. It’s hard to quantify though. I could tell you the fiscal cost, but how do you measure the time and effort involved? There was also a huge physical and emotional cost. It could have been worse of course. I am lucky that I was allowed to keep the t-shirt business, but what is the point of selling shirts of a brand that won’t exist soon?”
One thing is for sure. His beers are of enough quality that he need not worry too much about the future.
You can submit your entry to rename Artisan’s flagship beer here.
Who is Simon Docherty? Watch him talk to On Par Productions below.
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