Trademark Disputes “Brewing” in Craft Beer Industry

Is the craft brewing industry the next industry to be taken over by intellectual property disputes? While the pace of litigation will likely never eclipse the software industry, trademark infringement suits are increasingly common among craft brewers.

Most recently, Michigan-based Brewery Vivant sent a cease and desist letter to Tired Hands Brewing Company of Pennsylvania over two ales called “Farmhand.” Brewery Vivant, which holds the trademark to the name, is demanding that the brewer stop using the name. Given the name recognition of its own beer and the costs to rename it, Tired Hands is resisting the request.

The trademark disputes are not limited to beer names. Earlier this year, West Sixth Brewing of Kentucky and Magic Hat Brewing of Vermont settled a suit over what Magic Hat contended was a “confusingly similar logo.” West Sixth ultimately agreed to make changes to its logo, which included removing a star and the word “company.” Also, this year, a Brooklyn brewery was also forced to change its name from Narwhal Brewery to Finback Brewery after Sierra Nevada raised concerns that it was too similar to its Narwhal Imperial Stout ale.

The rise of trademark infringement lawsuits reflects the rapid growth of the craft brewing industry. There are currently more than 2,500 operating breweries in the United States, compared to just 89 thirty years ago.

As a result, craft brewing companies must flex their creative muscle when creating logos, company names, and monikers for their concoctions. This also involves conducting due diligence to make sure they are not already used in the beer industry. If your name is confusingly similar to a product already on the market, you could be forced to change the name or face a costly trademark infringement suit.

If you need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327). Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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