Hammer-Schlagen owners settle with brewery in stump trademark lawsuit

The brewery was playing their own version of the game, which violated trademark laws, a judge recently ruled.

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

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 the "HammerSchlagen Stump" (a round piece of wood with nails positioned around its perimeter and a cross-peen hammer) and earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim entered a permanent injunction, saying WRB's trademark is "valid and enforceable," Hammer-Schlagen said in a March 13 news release

The judge's ruling stems from a lawsuit WRB filed against Schram Haus Brewing in Chaska on Dec. 11, 2020. The lawsuit alleged the brewery was using a counterfeit stump to play Hammer-Schlagen since 2019. 

In August 2020, WRB sent a written request to Schram House asking them to stop counterfeiting the stump and offered to appear at Schram Haus so they could "lawfully" offer their "nail driving entertainment service," WRB said.

But Schram Haus continued to offer their version of the game, called "Schrammerschlagen," so WRB filed a lawsuit saying the brewery knowingly infringed on WRB's trademark and people at the event "expressed brand confusion."

Back in December, WRB's attorney Michael Frasier said Schram Haus counterfeited at least three of the company's trademarks, which could result in the brewery having to pay $6 million in damages, as well as $150,000 in damages for intentional copyright infringement and other fees. 

According to the Star Tribune, Schram Haus Brewery owners Aaron and Ashley Schram denied they counterfeited Hammer-Schlagen and requested a trial by jury. But the two sides in late February resolved the lawsuit and entered into a confidential settlement. 

Hammer-Schlagen CEO Jim Martin said in a statement this month that this "matter has been settled ... and I believe the compromise reached benefits both WRB and Schram Haus."

"The big takeaway is that WRB and its predecessors are the source and origin of the Hammer-Schlagen brand of entertainment," Martin said in the statement. "If you want to provide nail driving entertainment to your guests, please don't counterfeit the Stump. It took decades to establish the goodwill of Hammer-Schlagen. Just call us, and we'll do our best to show up and put smiles on your patron's faces."

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. You can book Hammer-Schlagen for your event for a minimum of $375 for four hours, the company's website says.

Bring Me The News has reached out to Schram Haus Brewery for comment. 

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Hammer-Schlagen's story

Hammer-Schlagen bargoers are familiar with today originated in Germany with slightly different rules, 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 Alschin 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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