Trademarks are a tricky subject. You must be ever-vigilant to make sure you aren’t accidentally infringing on someone else’s mark and also be ever-vigilant and defend your own marks when necessary so that they don’t lose their power. You may even need to go beyond craft beer, into other beverage categories, just to be safe. And there are some strategies for doing all of this swiftly and amicably.
But one thing you can never be prepared for from a trademark infringement standpoint: A completely lame pop/hip-hop group that had one mildly popular song coming after you for using their name, which is actually a bunch of letters that people have been using as Internet chat slang since the days of ICQ.
So, as you no doubt understood from that intro, the music group LMFAO is saying Muskegon, Mich.-based Pigeon Hill Brewing Co.’s LMFAO Stout infringes on the group’s trademark of being annoying and terrible.
Or something like that. From MiBiz:
“The first thing we do when we brand a beer is to make sure we search its name,” Brower told MiBiz. “If someone had an LMFAO Brown, obviously we might confuse it. But in this case, it’s definitely interesting to see that crossover where the entertainment world thinks there may be some confusion.”
New York-based law firm Wuersch & Gering LLP issued the letter on behalf of LMFAO and requests that Pigeon Hill “cease using the LMFAO Stout mark and expressly abandon its pending application.”
“We have a very famous mark,” Thilo Agthe, the attorney representing LMFAO, told MiBiz. “We have to be very careful in policing how that trademark is used and by whom. It’s possible that customers that purchase (LMFAO Stout) might associate that with the band.”
LMFAO Stout, btw, stands for “Let Me Fetch An Oatmeal Stout,” which is a legitimately great name. But to be fair to the accomplished Redfoo and the other guy in LMFAO (the journalist typed seriously), trademark law, is, um no F’ing laughing matter (NFLM). And dumb name or not, the group’s legal team must be on the look out for issues. Some words that start as generic general words get some level of trademark power (Apple, for example). Yadda yadda. Whether LMFAO or the superior LFO are legally allowed to lord over their super clever names and push around small regional craft brewers that happen to use them in a totally unrelated way, though, is uncertain.