Leave it to beaver to get Austin bar into legal trouble
there’s a beaver problem in East Austin. The Longbranch Inn, a bar with live music at 1133 E. 11th St., has been told in a cease and desist letter that its beaver logo infringes on the Benny Beaver trademark used by Oregon State University.
The letter “came in the mail here; at first I thought it was a joke,” said Jim Stockbauer, who owns the bar with his business partner, Kevin Crutchfield.
The letter from the Collegiate Licensing Co. in Atlanta says the Longbranch’s cartoon beaver used on stickers and T-shirts and in ads “is confusingly similar to the BENNY BEAVER design trademark owned by the institution” — the institution being Oregon State.
“You guys must be kidding?” Stockbauer wrote back. “There is every conceivable beaver known to man that is a logo across the world. This is not your beaver and we never wanted to look anything like your
Collegiate Licensing saw the Longbranch’s beaver in an ad in the Austin Chronicle. “They sit around looking for beaver all day long,” Crutchfield surmised. Hey, it’s a living.
Stockbauer admits his beaver is eerily similar to Oregon State’s beaver. They’re both slap-happily smiling beaver head shots, and both beavers have buckteeth and wear sailor beanies.
The bar came by the beaver symbol about seven years ago.
“We were just sitting around having beers with this guy Billy Bishop; he’s this poster artist on the East Side,” Stockbauer said. “We didn’t have any money for any kind of fancy advertising, so he just made this thing up for us, painted this thing for the back of our (band) stage. I forgot all about it until this lawyer kept pestering.” He says he paid Bishop for the beaver artwork in free drinks.
“Uh, at the time I can’t even remember what I was basing it off of,” Bishop said of his beaver artwork. “I think I just Googled beavers.”
Stockbauer says they don’t have the money to fight a lawsuit. So he’s holding a contest for Austinites to come up with a new logo for his bar. You can bring your entries to the Longbranch and drop them off. The winner gets a $100 bar tab.
“I think we’ll come up with something good because there’s lots of artsy types in Austin,” Stockbauer said. So far he’s gotten two entries — one with the current beaver logo redone in black Groucho Marx glasses.
The logo isn’t the only beaver at the Longbranch. The bar has a stuffed beaver on top of the back bar up near the ceiling. Joe Sebastian, an assistant manager, says there has been some disagreement over whether it’s really a beaver, or “a muskrat with a (beaver) tail tacked on.”
“It does have web feet, so it must be a beaver,” Stockbauer said. He says he got the critter on eBay out of Nova Scotia for about $80. He decorated with taxidermied animals because it’s a cheap way to brighten up a bar.
“All these wives want to get this stuff out of the house,” he said.
He says he got a bobcat for nothing from a guy he met in the Chuck E. Cheese’s parking lot on Ben White Boulevard. “That was kind of cool,” he said.
So the Longbranch doesn’t have to worry about being harassed by lawyers over its dead animal decor, although it may get marched on by PETA.
Jim Stockbauer, left, and Kevin Crutchfield keep a stuffed beaver for decor at their East Austin bar, the Longbranch Inn. They received a cease and desist letter saying their logo was too similar to Oregon State University’s Benny Beaver mascot.