Certain clever craft beer companies will employ a certain theme when marketing their beer brands. Take Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. for instance, based in Akron, Ohio. All of the brewery’s beer names and label designs incorporate dogs — from Old Leghumper (a dark brown porter) to 12 Dogs of Christmas (a spicy Christmas ale). That seems to be a trend in the industry, and part of that trend might be a reaction to trademarking, as unique names are becoming harder to secure.
According to great article on the Coloradoan‘s website, lots of Colorado beers are going the themed route to avoid any trademark roadblocks. Verboten Brewing in Loveland, Colo., has gone with all movie names for its beer. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, also in Loveland, themes its beer names after fairy tales. Writer David Young cleverly connects this idea with the recent rash of trademark disputes in American craft beer brands.
We quote the article: “To date, Verboten has not taken any steps to register or trademark their beer names, but [co-owner Angie] Grenz said once they look to start distributing, they will move to protect the names. … The legal side of their business is one that often brewers tend to overlook. New brewers aren’t usually copyright experts, so they can risk overlooking the protection of their intellectual property, including beer names.
“A nod to the increase in litigation as of late: Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder-based Brewers Association, noted they see more lawyers each year at the annual brewers’ conference offering advice on how to deal with legal issues. ‘It’s been an issue that’s increasing. In the past, it’s more of a brewery name issue,’ he said. ‘When someone finds someone is second to the table, they will change the beer name.’”
This reminds us of the recent Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Narwhal Brewery dispute. Last year, Sierra Nevada launched its Narwhal Imperial Stout, but it just so happens there was already an upstart Brooklyn brewing company using that name (“Narwhal Imperial Stout”), and they were called Narwhal Brewery. Of course, Sierra Nevada applied for a trademark and Narwhal didn’t The latter is now called Finback Brewery. It’s a tough legal lesson to learn, so (in our opinion) craft brewers need to trademark beers and brands before they even start distributing.