Applying for Label Approval at the TTB

Application for and Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval (TTB F 5100.31)

A brewery cannot sell any beer that is not labeled in accordance with the federal label laws and regulations.  If the brewery plans to sell beer in more than one state, its labels must obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (“COLA”) from the TTB.  Once an application for such pre-approval is filed, the TTB then has 90 days to approve or deny the label.  If the TTB approves the label, it will issue a certificate of label approval (“COLA”).

In order for an application to succeed, the label must contain the following mandatory statements: brand name; class of beverage (beer, ale, porter, stout, lager, etc.);  brewery’s name and address; net contents (pints, quarts, gallons, fl. ounces); alcoholic content (if required by state); government health warning; name and address of importer; name and address of bottler/packer; declaration of sulfates  aspartame, and/or yellow 5.  Also, the TTB requires that the label meet certain font and size requirements.

There are also several things that cannot be included on a beer label: it cannot contain false, disparaging, obscene, indecent, or misleading statements.  Also, the label cannot use the name or image of a living public figure or of a corporation in such a way that a consumer would be led to believe that the figure or corp endorses the beer.  Similarly, the label cannot contain flags, coat of arms, crests, or another claim to a government stamp of approval.

A brewery should know that several states also have specific requirements relating to beer labeling.  For instance, several states require that a beer label cannot be appealing to children (some breweries have created different beer labels for these stricter states).  You should check with your state and local rules regarding labeling to ensure compliance with these rules as well.

About Dan

Daniel Christopherson of DCBrewLaw.com is a beer and trademark attorney at Lehrman Beverage Law. He is an avid craft beer enthusiast who helps new and established breweries develop their business models, comply with the TTB and FDA, and protect their intellectual property.
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