Bean Counters

For the last few years, all of my buddies have insisted that I watch ‘Yellowstone,’ stating it is a phenomenal show. The series focuses on John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner. Dutton and his children run the Yellowstone ranch, which has been in his family for generations and is the largest in Montana. The Duttons are constantly bombarded by hostile takeovers of the ranch, such as by Indian casinos, real estate developers and even cattle rustlers.

Most of the time, though, the Duttons are fighting among themselves. Needless to say, the show lives up to its billing as a drama. But, the conflict isn’t always on screen.

The latest brew-ha-ha involves the series’ co-creator and showrunner, Taylor Sheridan, and Cole Hauser, who plays Dutton’s son-in-law, Rip Wheeler, the ranch’s ruthless enforcer with a heart of gold. The pair has a tumultuous past, as Hauser claimed in an April of 2022 interview with ‘Men’s Journal’ that they got into a fist fight the second time they met.

Things have perked up with them over something critically important to “the Cowboy way of life,” as characterized by Sheridan’s company, Bosque Ranch, named for the filming location for ‘Yellowstone’ and the show’s prequel, ‘1883.’ I immediately thought the dispute would be over horses or cattle or land or even pickup trucks. Instead, it’s about coffee.

Bosque Ranch announced last July that it would be launching its own coffee, which it markets as “one thing as essential to the Cowboy as his boots and saddle. It is our fuel,” its ad claims. “Bosque Ranch Craft Coffee is bold yet smooth, and meant to be sipped all day. And sometimes all night.”

In October, Hauser’s company, Free Rein, rolled out its own coffee, proclaiming it was “born from the cowboy tradition.” The coffee is promoted as echoing his Yellowstone character’s real-life roots and pays tribute to “the hard-working cowboys that [Hauser] grew up around on and off set.” Free Rein’s six blends of coffee each have cowboy-inspired names like “American Dirt” and “Heavy Spur.”

The websites for both coffees feature Sheridan and Hauser, respectively, standing outdoors in cowboy hats holding a mug of their brew, looking wistfully off into the distance.

Unlike the show, which normally resorts to violence to resolve a conflict, Sheridan’s Bosque Ranch filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of Texas against Hauser’s Free Rein, on November 21. Bosque Ranch accuses Free Rein of “trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising,” noting that both of the companies use logos that look like cattle brands – Bosque’s has an intertwined “BR” and Free Rein has an intertwined “FR.”

Bosque Ranch alleges Free Rein’s logo is “confusingly similar to the BR Brand for virtually identical goods” and further contends Hauser’s company is trying to “mistake or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association” with the ranch. “Neither Hauser nor the Defendants asked or received permission or authorization of Sheridan or Bosque Ranch to use a mark confusingly similar to the BR Brand for virtually identical goods,” the lawsuit reads, and the use of the logo is “irreparably damaging to Bosque Ranch.”

Production on ‘Yellowstone’ has ground to a halt, in part because Costner is currently directing and starring in a series of Western films titled ‘Horizon.’ Coincidentally, the star also has a coffee deal featuring a publicity photo of him outdoors in a cowboy hat and holding a cup of the brew branded as what else – Horizon Blend.

Various media outlets have asked for comments from everyone involved, but no one is willing to spill the beans.

The following two tabs change content below.

Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

Latest posts by Reg P. Wydeven (see all)