Stillwater ax-throwing club sued over use of Hammer-Schlagen bar game

Officials from WRB Inc., a Stillwater company that owns the trademark on Hammer-Schlagen, a game in which several contestants try to hammer a nail into a stump, have sued a Stillwater ax-throwing club.

The lawsuit alleges that the Lumberjack Co., located in downtown Stillwater, has engaged in “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business acts of unfair competition” in violation of state statute through its unauthorized use of WRB’s trademark and trade dress.

WRB’s trademarks include slogans such as “Let’s Play Hammer Schlagen,” “Got Wood,” “Get Hammered,” “Get Nailed,” “Get Bent,” and “Whack It,” and “have become immensely popular throughout the United States, particularly at beer festivals, bars, and Octoberfest festivals,” the lawsuit states.

The Lumberjack Co., which opened in November 2019, is owned by Sara Jesperson.

According to the lawsuit, the Lumberjack entered a one-year license agreement with WRB in February 2020 to have Hammer-Schlagen at its facility. In December 2020, WRB sent a license renewal offer to The Lumberjack, as the current license was set to expire on Feb. 2, 2021, but the Lumberjack Co. rejected the offer and did not renew the license, according to the lawsuit.

In June, Jim Martin, the CEO of WRB, was at the Food Truck Extravaganza at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Baytown Township.

Also there was the Lumberjack Co., which had four Hammer-Schlagen games set up, identical to WRB’s registered trade dress, the lawsuit states.

“The patrons playing Hammer-Schlagen identified the game by name,” the lawsuit states. “The Lumberjack Company employees solicited Martin to play Hammer Schlagen by name. It offered the service for $2 per game per person.”

The Lumberjack Co.’s website includes a virtual tour, in which two Hammer-Schlagen stumps are visible, according to the lawsuit.

Jesperson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Hammer Schlagen was invented by Carl Schoene, who immigrated to St. Paul from Germany in 1957; Schoene’s parents, Karl and Elizabeth, founded the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter Restaurant in Grant in 1966. Schoene’s father-in-law, Mike Wlaschin, standardized the game and its equipment in the 1980s and gave it the brand name “Hammer-Schlagen,” Martin said. Wlaschin founded WRB in 1999 and acquired a federal trademark registration for its logo the next year.

WRB last year filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that Schram Haus Brewery in Chaska has been counterfeiting its Hammer-Schlagen stump since 2019. The two parties settled the matter in March; the brewery is no longer allowed to use the game.

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