Brewery Trademarks: To Get One or Not to Get One?

Back in the day, breweries didn’t have to worry about protecting themselves against trademark lawsuits. But nowadays, thanks to the internet, a booming industry, and a shrinking pool of available, non-trademarked names, breweries are frequently finding themselves under attack for trademark issues. This has led to changes in the industry, which has now made registering your brewery’s trademark the norm. To help you decide if a trademark is right for your business, we’ve compiled some tips for protecting and expanding your brand from this webinar recording with Dan Christopherson from Robert Lehrman Beverage Law.

The Facts

In 2014, the number of US craft breweries increased by 19.4%, while the number of approved beer labels increased by 24.6%. This means that the number of untapped creative trademark ideas represented by logos, slogans, and packaging designs is shrinking, while the size of the market is rapidly growing. If your brand isn’t trademarked yet, we suggest doing so. The risk of being copied or losing the rights to your brand in an expensive lawsuit have never before been greater!

But Don’t Panic, There’s Good News

Not only does trademark registration provide a way for you to promote and build your brand identity, it also increases the value and net worth of your business. That’s a win-win! Having your trademark registered provides  extra protection to your brand.

The Trademark Triangle

Your brewery’s registration process must be compliant with three independent state agencies: the USPTO, TTB, and the state-specific ABC. Unfortunately, these three government agencies aren’t on the same page in regards to what ‘beer’ is and have different rules on what they allow in a beer name. Because of this, it’s essential to ensure your brand is compliant across the board. Every state is different, so to do this, refer to each state’s guidelines, or check out the Beverage Alcohol Community for industry insights.

The USPTO, TTB, and ABC won’t notify you if your trademark is already is use by another brewery, so it’s up to you to make sure your brand is available and isn’t claimed by a trademark registration.

You Aren’t On Your Own

There are some tools out there to search trademarks. Google, industry magazines, and fan sites provide a great starting point. There’s also the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System, which you can cross reference your brand with existing registered trademarks.

Another great tool to use is LabelVision. Our tool allows you to research trademark registered labels, as well as labels that exist but don’t have a trademark registration yet. If this is the case, you can identify which company the label belongs to and determine if it’s worth reaching out in regards to their trademark registration status.

It’s important to note hiring an attorney for a clearance search remains the safest option for minimizing the risk of future litigation. Once your brewery is given the green light in the form of a letter from an attorney’s office, you are protected if you ever end up in trademark registration litigation down the road. (Hopefully, this doesn’t happen!)

There are lots of options and opportunities out there to grow and protect your brand and business. These are just a few of the ones we have collected, and you can find more in this webinar recording with Dan Christopherson from Robert Lehrman Beverage Law. It’s also helpful to join communities like the Beverage Alcohol Community or brewery guilds which provide insight and best practices from experts and industry members.

Have some trademark best practices? Share them in the comments!

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