Guest Post | How to Avoid Costly Trademark Disputes

The landscape for craft breweries has drastically changed over the last few years, and while we regularly hear about the overall industry growth, we too often read about the rise of trademark disputes coming with it. This problem is continuing to grow as more and more breweries enter the market and more and more brews are made. Trademark conflicts often have expensive results, involving attorneys, social media mud-slinging, and wasted time.

But it doesn’t have to. We reached out to OvalOptions a Denver, Colorado alternative dispute resolution firm, to get some details on options breweries have other than expensive lawsuits. Check out this post by Jason Gladfelter, a mediator focusing on the craft beer industry. We hope you find it helpful! 

OK, so you have a trademark. You have gone through the mind-numbing processes to acquire a ® and you deserve a beer or three.

Now what?

How do you police and defend it against infringement? Unfortunately, many people see only two steps to handle trademark infringement: 1) call/write the other party to enlighten them on the situation (something like, “Hey, you’re violating my trademark “); and if that doesn’t work jump straight to, 2) hire an attorney.

As professionals in Conflict Management and Resolution, we whole-heartedly agree with the first step. Personal communication is important. It’s non-threatening and invites open response. While securing legal representation may be necessary, it shuts the door on communication, costs a lot of money, leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and emerging victorious is not guaranteed. This does not mean legal representation is a bad idea or discouraged. It’s just that many times people too hastily secure legal counsel without considering, or even knowing about, other options. Like Mediation.

Mediation is often overlooked, mainly because it is misunderstood. It is often confused with “meditation,” or viewed as a soft, “kumbaya” hug-session. In truth, mediation is a valuable business tool used every day in every industry. In mediation, a third party neutral helps disputing parties communicate openly, understand the other’s perspective, discover roots of a problem, brainstorm possibilities, and even create amicable solutions. Mediation can help parties dig themselves out of entrenched positions and emotional grooves to reach a settlement. And since many legal processes end up settling after many months of maneuvering anyway, mediation is a great middle step when considering how to manage a dispute. Unless agreed to by both parties, mediation never prohibits your right to legal action.

Here’s a quick table illustrating just some of the benefits of mediation:Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 9.50.09 AM

Trademarks are important, and so is understanding the processes used to manage them. This is why we set up the Brewery Mediation Network (BMN). We help breweries understand this middle option, as well as their situation so that they can make informed decisions for their business (for trademarks and much more).

The BMN:

  • Clarifies mediation, its role and cost
  • Vets mediators around the country
  • Contracts mediators certified by the International Trademark Association
  • Matches a client’s particular situation with the most appropriate, vetted mediator
  • Provides information on other sources of assistance
  • Maintains client confidentiality

The next time you come across a possible trademark infringement, it is a good idea to call the other brewery to let them know your concern. If that doesn’t work, then contact the Brewery Mediation Network. It’s OK if you already have legal representation. Mediation can help settle the dispute amicably and avoid lengthy, costly, ugly and stressing fights.

And by all means, keep disputes off of social media!

Here are several sources to help with trademarking process:

jason 2Jason Gladfelter of OvalOptions has over 22 years of experiences in mediation. He has a special focus on the growing craft brewing industry, where workplace communications and at-home tensions are a challenge. He assists breweries nationwide in balancing business operations with personal relationships within the brew-house.
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