It’s an issue that a number of craft brewers have grappled with over the past year, and one that is often misunderstood: trademark ownership and infringement.
According to Craig Rashkis, an attorney with Farwell Rashkis, LLP, trademarks can be “a word, phrase, design, logo, or any combination thereof that distinguishes the source of a product or goods” from another source. In the beer industry, common trademarks include the name of the brewing company, the name of a beer and label artwork.
Registering a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) enables companies to protect their brand and branding by prohibiting their use by another company or individual. As an example, last year, Uinta Brewing Co. was forced to change the name of its flagship Hop Notch to Hop Nosh because Notch Brewing Co. owns trademark for the word “Notch” as it relates to beer and breweries.
In this video, Rashkis suggests that craft brewers (and other beverage suppliers) should begin the process of registering a trademark with the USPTO well before spending money and other resources to launch a brand or product. Those that do not could put themselves at risk of potential lawsuits and significant financial losses.
“You want to do it before you get too far down the line and you’ve invested time and money into your brand,” Rashkis said. “You always hear about the story of the company that has invested all kinds of money and marketing, and their product is out there in the marketplace, and then all of a sudden, somebody comes out of the woodwork and sends them a cease and desist letter, or otherwise forces them to stop.”
Watch this video to hear more from Rashkis the timing and research that one should take into account when planning to register a trademark, as well as potential ramifications from trademark infringement. And for much more on important considerations regarding alcoholic beverage companies, check out our entire video series featuring Rashkis, who discusses a range of legal topics regarding the alcoholic beverage industry.