15 Jan Trademark Disputes are a Growing Concern for Breweries
The number of breweries in the U.S. has been steadily rising to pre-1900 levels, and that is saying a lot. At the end of 2017, 6,372 breweries were operating in the U.S. Based on the growing demand for locally produced beer, the number of new breweries is expected to continue to rise. New breweries sprouting up in California and across the country face significant legal issues—such as taxes, licensing, regulations, distribution, intellectual property, and franchise issues.
In particular, trademark disputes are a growing concern for new breweries. Their names often conflict with those of older breweries, which may hold federally registered trademarks for their brewery names or their beer.
One trademark dispute from back in 2014 was a good example of this prevalent issue. Eastwood Brewing Co., a small brewery in Syracuse, New York, originally formed its business under the name “Double Barrel Brewing Co.” Unfortunately for Eastwood Brewing, Firestone Walker Brewing Co, a California brewery formed in 1996, already had a federal trademark for a beer called “Double Barrel Ale.” Firestone Walker Brewing sent a cease-and-desist letter to Eastwood Brewing. After discussions with Firestone Walker Brewing, Eastwood Brewing agreed to change its name to avoid any confusion or violation of trademark laws.
Given the vastness of the English language, one would think that developing unique monikers would be easy. This, however, does not appear to be the case. Instead, trademark disputes between brewers appear to be increasing in frequency and growing in concern.
Trademark disputes can be expensive to litigate and may result in significant compensatory and punitive damages, if a brewer is found liable for federal trademark infringement. Even if an amicable resolution can be resolved between breweries (as between Eastwood Brewing and Firestone Walker Brewing), a brewery that is forced to change its name will lose the time and money spent developing that brand name.
In order to avoid potential trademark issues, it is imperative that new and existing brewers undertake efforts to research current marks used by breweries. These efforts range from performing a cursory internet search to searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark’s website to consulting an attorney and running a detailed trademark search.
Our experienced attorneys can help guide your brewery with this process. If you are just starting a brewery or are concerned about potential trademark infringement of your current brewery name and brand, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Our experienced attorneys can help answer questions or concerns that you may have.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you are interested in speaking with a business litigation lawyer regarding trademark infringement, contact Heerde Blum LLP by calling 213-770-5757 or 212-920-5858 or by filling out the online contact form.