Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Craft Beer Names are Getting Crafty and Causing Trademark Pandemonium

One of my favorite stores to visit in San Diego is a store dedicated to hot sauces.  Now, mind you, I don't go there strictly for the hot sauces.  The main attraction for me is reading the witty (often racy or raunchy) names of the sauces.  It always amazes me at how creative the makers are in coming up with their names.

I have also discussed the witty names by Ben & Jerry in another context.  However, there is another type of product which lends itself to creative naming: the craft beer industry.  Unfortunately, it appears as if the term "hops," is becoming scarce for this industry.  The same goes for names involving animals, natural features, and historical references.  Unfortunately, with the fairly recent onslaught of craft breweries--many of whom have several different types of brews--the possible variations of "punny" or creative names for those beers has vastly diminished.  That has lead to an increase in trademark battles over names, images, and the like around the Country.  According to a Wall Street Journal article, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has approximately 25,000 active registrations and applications related to beer.

If that were not enough, those charged with naming their brews must also be aware of wine and spirits trademarks.  For example, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey maker opposed a brewer's attempt to trademark "Fireball Beer."

Of course, it is not simply the craft brewers who find themselves in a trademark dispute.  Budweiser lost a suit by a small Czech brewery over the use of the Budweiser name in Europe.

This is not surprising given how the importance of trademarks has risen in today's fast-paced economy.  I certainly have been guilty of trying a beer just because its name was clever (although, I am not as inclined to do so for the hot sauces).