Avoiding Trademark Issues for Beer Names

The power of the Internet has been very helpful for many craft brewers, especially when it comes to trademark rights for the vast amount of beers. Trademarking beer names can become a difficult task with more than 5,000 breweries trying to word play various styles.

Although it can be fun to brainstorm, having a few online options have helped many avoid future conflicts. With a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer, access to apps such as Untappd or Google searches can net findings of names that may already have been brought to the table.

“If there is a potential for a conflict then ask a lawyer,” said Sloop Brewing’s Adam Watson. “A professional trademark search is less than $200.”

Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings added, “I have our trademark attorney run our prospective names in advance. I also check Google, RateBeer and Beer Advocate for conflicts.”

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For Fargo Brewing, Aaron Hill pointed out that although they do use search engines to research, sometimes knowing how far the beer is going can also make a difference.

“If a beer stays in our taprooms, we aren’t as concerned,” he said, noting that his brewery has a trademark on its “Wood Chipper” IPA, “but anything sent out to the market is more closely considered.”

Conflicts still do arise, as noted through several fights that have been publicized. Some have ended amicably while others are still in contention.

“Every issue we have had was solved pretty simply,” noted Carton Brewing’s Augie Carton.

“Usually a coexistence agreement solves the matter,” added Stuffings.

After being in what he called “several” conflicts, Clark Lewey of Toppling Goliath said that when allowable, the brewery trademarks everything to ensure proper ownership.

“We do as much research as possible and try to use unique and even made up words as names,” he said.

Photos courtesy Brian Casse & Sloop Brewing

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