A lot has been made of trademark squabbles between breweries lately (See Sixpoint v. Renegade and Magic Hat v. West Sixth). There is one lesson that all breweries should take to heart: do not take your brands for granted. Do so at your own peril. Your brewery’s brands (including the brewery name, beer names, logo, slogans, and more) are its lifeblood. Regardless of how good your beer is, nobody will buy your beer time and time again unless they can identify it at the store/bar. Breweries spend countless hours and dollars developing a name for themselves in the minds of their customers, which can be lost in the blink of an eye if another brewer decides to send out a cease and desist letter. (Remember, coming up with a name and protecting it was Step 1 in my Brewery Legal Checklist).
Benefits of trademarking your brewery’s brands:
- Stop other registrations
- Verify the brand is not already being used
- Help avoid costly litigation
- Obtain trademark rights early with an intent-to-use application
A common reaction in the craft beer industry is to immediately vilify the “aggressor.” This reaction is often justified, as many breweries (or their attorneys) jump past amicable solutions and go right to the courts. Merely applying for a trademark application, however, should not be viewed as going against the preferred community-centric philosophy that famously pervades the brewing industry. Trademarks are an important part of the brewing industry, and every brewery should budget appropriately to obtain federal registration of its brands.