Swedish beer producer Omnipollo in name dispute

A close up of beer being drawn into a glass

writer icon Samuel Christiansen     Marcelo Ikeda Tchelão   |   Business     🕐 04. Dec. 2018

Swedish beer producer Omnipollo may have to discontinue one of its beers amid a dispute over the trademark.

The beer in question carries an anti-racism message and was designed with the intention of mocking the Ku Klux Klan. The packaging imitates the infamous pointed white hoods worn by the white-supremacist organisation.

The issue at hand
However, it is not the design, nor the anti-racist stance of the beer, that has caused the issue. The dispute surrounds the name of the beer - Yellow Belly.

Brewed in collaboration with Buxton Brewery in the UK, this Swedish beer was launched almost five years ago. It is a product of The Rainbow Project, an initiative that sees fourteen brewers paired up, assigned a colour from the rainbow, and instructed to create and launch a beer suiting the assigned colour.

Omnipollo and Buxton Brewery received the colour yellow, and they agreed that the theme most associated with yellow was cowardice.

Political unrest
The brewers felt provoked by the political situation throughout Europe, which was seeing the rise of far-right political groups and nationalistic organisations. More notably, they saw that support for these parties was surprisingly high despite low-scoring preliminary polls.

“…the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked, face-to-face, what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time, the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale,”
Henok Fentie, Co-founder of Omnipollo, said when the beer was launched.

Together, they felt that people anonymously protesting against freedom and rights to co-exist, was an accurate representation of cowardice today. Whether that is by hiding behind an online account, or under a hood.

Unchallenged until now
Since its launch, the beer has been available without any challenge. That is until recently when it came to the attention of Batemans Brewery, a Lincolnshire brewery that claims it first began brewing Yella Belly beer twenty years ago. They are disputing the name chosen by Omnipollo and Buxton Brewery as being too similar to their already well-established beer.

Batemans' connection to the name is based not on cowardice, but tradition. People from Lincolnshire have long been called Yellow Bellies, although the exact reason why remains up for debate

Batemans have experienced backlash online from some fans of Yellow Belly. Stuart Bateman, the managing director of Batemans, told the BBC - “if various people that are going on social media and are adamant about the importance of the name Yellow Belly, then they appreciate there's an importance in branding.”

Not wanting to enter into a legal battle, it is likely that the Omnipollo and Buxton Brewery beer will simply be discontinued. Fentie said to the BBC that they would “rather spend money on putting more hops in our beer”.

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