Naming your brewery and your beer is a vital part of your craft brewing business, even more so because of the potential liabilities in terms of trademarks, copyright, fair use and the like. The nuts and bolts of liability and law often boil down to just doing your homework when branding and trademarking — scan Google; search beer community websites like Rate Beer and Beer Advocate; search the U.S. Patent and Trademark website; and think about hiring an attorney to do a deeper, thorough dive before cleverly branding your next beer. Here are a few examples of some trademark disputes in the craft brewing industry (i.e. things to avoid). The more you know…
Kettle and Stone Brewing to change name to avoid Stone trademark dispute
A 10-month-old brewery out of Boulder, Colo., called Kettle and Stone Brewing Co. will apparently be changing its name after Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Co. gave it a tough choice — change the name or agree not to expand — according to this article on Daily Camera. Stone spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo emailed a statement to the Camera in which the company thanked Kettle and Stone Brewing Co. for changing its name.
“So what’s in a name?” she wrote, after noting that Stone wanted to avoid any legal action if possible. “To both breweries, it’s everything. A company’s name is not only its identity, it also includes the integrity of its products — in this case beer. Intellectual property is something that may be protected and soon after Stone Brewing Co. was established in 1996, we set out to protect our identity (and integrity) by trademarking Stone Brewing Co.
Rouge vs. Rouge Harbor
Oregon Brewing Co., which represents the Rogue brands of craft, filed a lawsuit recently against a micro-brewery in upstate New York over its use of the term “Rogue” in connection with beer. The filed complaint is against Rogue’s Harbor Brewing, a micro-brewery located outside of Ithaca, N.Y, located in the Rogue’s Harbor Inn. Perhaps your remember Oregon Brewing suing chef R.J. Cooper and his restaurant, Rogue 24, in Washington, D.C., for trademark infringement last year around this time.
Thirsty Dog vs. Sleepy Dog
According to the Ohio-focused The Beer Blog (a favorite), Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron has filed a federal trademark lawsuit against an Arizona brewery over a beer brand that bears a striking resemblance to Thirsty Dog Old Leghumper Robust Porter. According to the post:
Sleepy Dog Brewery in Tempe, Ariz., has a Leg Humper Hefeweizen. Both labels feature a dog looking amorously at a woman’s legs. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on April 17, notes that Thirsty Dog has used Old Leghumper since at least February 1997 and the name Old Leghumper has been a registered trademark since March 1999.
Dogfish Head on trademark enforcement
In an article on Draft Magazine’s website, the beer periodical discusses the trademark seminar and panel at the recent Craft Brewers Conference. The article notes that news of trademark disputes between brewers is often greeted with “knee-jerk reactions — especially on social media” but the panel made a case for why trademark enforcement is essential to growing a brand, regardless of a brewery’s size. The article even noted Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and its founder Sam Calagione had spent more than ever on its law side of the business.
Financially, trademark enforcement is costly business. Calagione noted that Dogfish Head spent more money on trademarks and trademark enforcement in 2013 than it did launching the company in 1995.