Bottling your brand: Trademark insight for craft brewers
09 May, 2019
Did you know that in 2018 there were more than 169,000 beer-related trademarks filed worldwide? That’s a lot of potential for infringement in the already-competitive craft brewing marketplace, where captivating brands are as critical to success as the quality of the beer itself. Whether intentional or accidental, copycat brands can cause consumer confusion, loss of revenue, and damage to a hard-earned reputation.
To help craft brewers better understand the importance of securing and protecting brand rights, Trademark.com hosted an educational webinar in partnership with Craft Brewing Business. IP attorney and craft brew enthusiast Curt Handley joined Mara Trumbour, Executive Product Owner of Trademark.com, to discuss practical tips for making the most of your beer brand trademark.
For the full scoop, view the recording here, or read on for a few highlights, plus Curt’s response to attendees’ questions that didn’t get answered during the live event!
Please note: the views and opinions expressed below are those of the presenters, not Trademark.com.
1. Registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is important, particularly if you do business regionally, nationally, or internationally.
2. Some trademarks are stronger than others. It will help you protect your brand in the long run if you stay away from names that are generic or descriptive, as these are likely to be difficult to enforce.
3. When evaluating trademark name candidates before securing your mark or assessing whether a newly filed trademark application presents a threat to your brand, ask yourself whether customers are likely to be confused if both marks exist in the marketplace. Customer confusion is more likely to arise when the names are similar in some capacity (e.g. Curt’s Pale Ale and Kurt’s Pale Ale) and cover similar areas of business (e.g. Class 32 – Beer).
4. Responsible trademark ownership doesn’t end with federal registration. Monitoring your mark and enforcing your rights are key to protecting your brand.
Q&A Beer Trademark Follow-up with Curt Handley, Esq.
- Question: I currently have a situation where I’ve filed for a Trademark for a beer name and it has been published, but a company with a similar name in a completely unrelated industry has asked that I withdraw my application and resubmit it with as “BREWERY NAME BEER NAME” as opposed to just “BEER NAME.” They even offered to pay for it. What is their strategy here?
Curt’s Answer: This is not as uncommon as you’d think and I have had this happen in many different industry verticals, including beer. Often people don’t want to have crowding around their trademark name. As such, they will go after unrelated filings to make sure there is plenty of distance. The main thing to have in place here, if you decided to do it, is a solid settlement agreement that keeps them from filing in your classing (i.e. here, for beer in Class 32).
- Question: What should we watch out for using trademark searches you see offered by companies on the internet? Because I have done that, and nothing came back, only to be blocked later on and out the money.
Curt’s Answer: In my opinion, always hire a competent trademark attorney to interpret search results or better yet, simply hire them directly to do the search. A good trademark attorney will understand the ins and outs of how the PTO conducts a search. And with that said, even the best of trademark attorneys can’t anticipate everything the PTO will come back with… but generally, you’ll get a better result.
- Question: Can you speak on how to curate a successful co-exist agreement with another company that has a similar mark but there’s no intent to overlap markets?
Curt’s Answer: There is no magic formula. However, as I mentioned in the webinar, you must address how you will keep consumers from becoming confused between the marks. And again, it’s always best to hire a competent trademark attorney that has experience in such matters.