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Brewers Fight Over Reviving Western Pa. Beer

Mon, 09/19/2011 - 6:25am
Manufacturing.net

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Two local beer makers are battling over the rights to resurrect Fort Pitt Beer, the post-World War II king of Pittsburgh beers.

Jones Brewing Co. of Smithton, which has brewed Fort Pitt in the past, is vying over the rights to the latest iteration of the beer with Duke Brewing's Mark Dudash, the Upper St. Clair attorney who resurrected Duquesne beer last year.

Jones Brewing, which makes beers under the Stoney's label, has received federal and state approval for a label for Fort Pitt. But Dudash said Jones let the trademark for Fort Pitt lapse and that he acquired the rights to the brand when he registered the Fort Pitt trademark in 2009.

"The circuit courts are clear. Once it lapses, it lapses," Dudash said. "They're going to run this into the market, and my position is they don't have any legs to stand on."

Jones president Sandra Podlucky said Fort Pitt "has been in the House of Jones for 46 years."

"It's not like Fort Pitt's been abandoned or anything," she said. "It's been one of our labels forever. Maybe we should have registered it, but we didn't think we had to."

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show the trademark for Fort Pitt beer was canceled in July 1996. Dudash applied for the trademark in March 2009, two months after he applied to reregister the lapsed trademark for Duke beer.

The U.S. Treasury approved Jones Brewing's application for a Fort Pitt label last month. The Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau considers only the content and format of the label and not trademark issues, spokesman Tom Hogue said.

Jones also received approval for a label for "Fort Pitt Ultra Premium Lager" from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on Aug. 15.

Neither Jones nor Dudash own production facilities.

When Jones closed its Westmoreland County brewery in 2002, production of Stoney's and its other brands moved to Iron City's Lawrenceville brewery. Production transferred to the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe when Iron City idled its plant in 2009.

Dudash brews Duke at the Latrobe brewery under a contract with City Brewing. The La Crosse, Wis., company purchased the plant in 2006 after Anheuser-Busch bought the Rolling Rock brand and moved production of the Latrobe beer to New Jersey.

The brand name Jones and Mr. Dudash are fighting over was once Pittsburgh's top-selling beer. It was marketed under the slogan "Fort Pitt, That's It." According to news accounts, Fort Pitt produced 1.2 million barrels in 1949.

But the brewery fell on hard times, closing a Jeannette plant in 1955 and transferring production to its main plant in Sharpsburg. Declining sales prompted Fort Pitt to diversify into jukeboxes, guided missile components and overcoats. It sold its beer division to Gunther Brewing of Baltimore in 1957.

Jones subsequently resurrected Fort Pitt, but Podlucky said the beer was last brewed about 10 years ago.

"It's not dead. It's not abandoned," she said. "We're having our (intellectual property) attorney looking to see how to move forward appropriately with this."

Dudash plans to launch Fort Pitt in May, within the three-year period trademark law requires a brand name holder to introduce the product into the market.

"I'm not backing off and handing them what is mine," he said.

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