The Tragically Hip has filed a lawsuit against Toronto-based Mill Street Brewery, alleging it has used the name of one of the band’s hits ‘At the Hundredth Meridian’ to brand and promote one of its beers.
In a statement of claim filed in an Ontario court on Tuesday, Tragically Hip Inc., claimed the brewery has branded and marketed its ‘100th Meridian Amber Lager’ to “pass off on the fame, goodwill and reputation” of the Tragically Hip.
In 1992 the band — originally from Kingston, Ont. — released Fully Completely, the album that featured ‘At the Hundredth Meridian.’
The suit alleges Mill Street Brewery “engaged in a course of conduct to, unilaterally and without permission, ride on the coat tails of one of the most beloved bands in Canadian music history by marketing its beer with reference to The Tragically Hip and one of its many quintessentially Canadian chart-topping tracks, ‘At the Hundredth Meridian.'”
The band also claims the brewery “deliberately amplified those efforts” during its final tour in 2016, after frontman Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Daryl Minor, the president of Mill Street, told Global News in an email on Feb. 10 that it received the statement of claim, which was filed on Feb. 9
“We are disappointed this step has been taken and are confident that the claim is without merit,” Minor wrote. “We do not intend to comment further on the matter while it is before the court.”
In the court filing, the band alleges Mill Street Brewery also “encourages users of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to make explicit associations between The Tragically Hip and its 100th Meridian.”
“Mill Street has leveraged the similarities between the name of its 100th Meridian and The Tragically Hip’s “At the Hundredth Meridian” to cause actual confusion among Canadians, and, in any event, to pose a substantial risk of potential confusion,” the statement of claim reads.
Paul Banwatt, a partner at Gilbert’s LLP who is representing the band, said ultimately The Tragically Hip “feels that their fans have been misled (and) that the band and the fans have been wronged.”
“And that’s what’s led us here,” he told Global News.
According to Banwatt, the band did try to “reach a compromise” with Mill Street Brewery before the lawsuit was filed, but he said “those efforts were unsuccessful.”
In a letter to fans sent earlier on Tuesday, the band reiterated that they are not associated with Mill Street’s 100th Meridian beer.
“We knew there is some confusion out there, but we didn’t know how much until recently,” the letter reads.
The band said they tried to sort it out with the brewery “for months,” but said the brewery “didn’t take us seriously, and frankly were disrespectful.”
“We have been around for a long time, and have always been able to work things like this out without a lawsuit,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, not this time. We took this step to clear up any confusion once and for all.”
Ultimately, Banwatt said “the band would like this to stop.”
“That’s the most important thing,” he said.
According to the filing, the band is seeking a minimum of $500,000 in “punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages,” along with additional damages for copyright infringement.
The Tragically Hip is also seeking a court order which would see Mill Street Brewery make a public statement that its products and services are not associated with the band.
It is also seeking another order which, if granted, would force Mill Street Brewery to remove all social media posts that reference The Tragically hip or that feature comments “drawing an association” between the band and Mill Street services or products.
— With files from Global News’ Miranda Anthistle