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Hammer-Schlagen owners settle with Stillwater bar over trademark lawsuit

A judge recently ruled the bar continued to use the game after their license for it expired.

The Stillwater-based company that has the trademark for the popular bar game Hammer-Schlagen has settled a trademark infringement battle with The Lumberjack in Stillwater. 

The drinking game involves people standing around a tree stump and taking turns hitting a nail with the wedge-end of a hammer. Each player gets one swing per turn until someone hits the nail flush with the stump. It became popularized at Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter near Stillwater and is now played frequently at bars and beer festivals across the Midwest and nationally, especially during Oktoberfest celebrations.

WRB Inc. in Stillwater owns the trademark for Hammer-Schlagen and licenses the rights to use its intellectual property.

A U.S. District Court of Minnesota judge on Friday found The Lumberjack was licensed to use the Hammer-Schlagen stump until February 2021, but the bar continued to use the Stump after the license expired.

Related [July 23]: Hammer-Schlagen inventors are suing another Minnesota bar

The Lumberjack did not admit any liability or wrongdoing in the case but did agree to pay WRB $50,000, according to the settlement. 

Had The Lumberjack licensed the Hammer-Schlagen stump from WRB, it would have cost $99 per year, Hammer-Schlagen CEO Jim Martin said. 

The court also ordered The Lumberjack not to use the stump or any of WRB's intellectual property in the future.

This is the latest trademark lawsuit from WRB. In December 2020, WRB sued Schram Haus Brewery in Chaska, accusing it of counterfeiting the Hammer-Schlagen stump. They settled in March

On Hammer-Schalgen's website, there is a prominent warning about the trademark the company has, noting the unauthorized use or reproduction of the game is prohibited. 

Hammer-Schlagen's story

Hammer-Schlagen bargoers are familiar with today has Germanic roots, Hammer-Schlagen's website says. Carl Schoene grew up playing a nail game with his friends in Germany where they'd take turns swinging an ax at a single nail the was pounded into something (old tire, a wall, the side of a tree), and the last one to finish had to do a dare of sorts.

When Schoene moved to St. Paul with his family in 1957, he modified the game to use a cross-peen hammer instead of an ax and each player was given their own nail, which was driven into the perimeter of a tree stump.

Schoene would challenge people to "Nagelspiel" at his family's restaurant, Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter, in an attempt to sell more beer, with the loser of the game bound to buy a round for the winners.

Schoene's father-in-law Mike Wlaschin took over the game in the 1980s, standardizing it and renaming it Hammer-Schlagen. He also changed the goal to be the first to pound in one's own nail, with each player getting one swing per turn before passing the hammer to the next player.

The brand started to expand and in 1999, WRB Inc. was formed and it got a trademark for the game. Since then, the nail driving competition has appeared at music festivals, fairs, bars and other events throughout the U.S.

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