Cider Corner: Claiming Your Name

It’s been seen many times in the craft beer industry: lawsuits over names.

With more than 7,000 breweries and each with numerous brands all named something, it can become quite a pain of getting a name for a cidery or a cider brand that doesn’t end with a cease & desist letter a few weeks later if not properly researched.

When Philippe Bishop of AlpenFire Cider started planting trees in 2003 the name was Wildfire Cider. It was a tribute to his father, Bear, and Bishop’s own history fighting forest fires across the West.

“We made a delivery to a restaurant with the same name and made a post on Facebook about it, well that was trolled by a conglomerate based in Chicago and they sent off cease and desist orders to both of us,” Bishop recalled. “Thinking this couldn’t happen to a tiny vintage producer like us we tried ignoring it until a man showed up on our orchard with a gun on his hip, handed us an envelope and said we had been served.

“We took it to a trademark attorney, they looked it over stated we may be able to fight it, but it would the cost might not outweigh the benefits since he had fought this company before.”

Trademarking a name was one of the first things New England Cider did while Seth Hart was choosing a name for the company.

“Both of us have strong roots based in New England, and so does hard cider,” he said. “I was actually shocked that no one was using this name or had a trademark that was close to it.

“Once we decided on New England Cider Company the first thing we did was to claim any domain names that were remotely close.”

Hart noted that the trademark database is pretty easy to use and so is Google, so that’s the easiest place for anyone to start in searching for a non-lawsuit worthy name.

Shortly after New England Cider opened Hart had a lawyer friend actually process the trademark paperwork for them and about six months later they had it officially.

Others have not had the same problems.

Mary Paulson, the owner and lead cider maker for Poochie’s Hooch Urban Cidery said she went through the USPTO and trademarked “Poochie’s Hooch” and the branding logo.

“I also compiled a “Recipe Book” of all of my flavored hard ciders and copyrighted and published it with the Library of Congress,” she noted. “Poochie’s Hooch is also doing business under a parent company, The Cider House, LLC with the State of California. So if anything, others will be infringing on me.”

For Dressler Estate Cider, it is easy since Olga Dressler said its the actual last name of the family in the business.

“We haven’t trademarked it, we would like to see someone come along and try and say we can’t use our names for our business,” she said “For others though, trademarking is always a wise choice.”

Matthew Galiani of Naughty Penguin Cider said he has been keeping notes of names and dates of things he uses just in case someone wants to try and keep him from using them.

It really just comes down to research, Bishop noted.

“It is really easy to do a quick internet search and confirm no one is using the name,” he said. “I would start with Facebook since most places will toss up a social media page even before a website, move on to a Google search and so on.

“You can also do a federal trademark search online as well. All I can really say is do your due diligence in looking up your name, it’s easy and could save you a lot of headache in the future.”