One of the most important steps in the craft beer world is to protect your name and your product names. Craft brewers are creative and come up with some of the best trademarks. However, a name is only part of the process. You need to ensure the name is available and if it is, you need to obtain trademark registration to protect it for your exclusive use.
Attention Beer Marketers
Coming up with a name is only half of the first step in naming a new brew. You must make sure the name is available. A good place to start is Beeradvocate.com. The website does its best to list every existing beer. In addition, they state whether certain beers are retired, which may indicate the owner has abandoned the trademark. However, they do not list whether or not the breweries have registered trademarks, and their lists are not exhaustive. In addition, it does not list wines and distilled spirits, two other markets that you need to search in the name selection process. As a result, it is important to conduct a comprehensive trademark search to ensure you won’t infringe on another company’s registered trademark.
- Check to make sure the name is available.
- You’ll want to search for names of wine and distilled spirits as well.
Craft Beer Trademark Registration Prevents Trademark Litigation
The easiest way to avoid trademark litigation is by acquiring federal trademark registration. A registered trademark grants you the exclusive right to use the mark nationwide in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration. You can purchase your barley and other grains, malt, mill, mash, lauter, boil, ferment, condition, and filter, but before you spend a dime on labeling and packaging you need to secure the name in form of a U.S. trademark registration. Registration can be obtained prior to any of the processes above. You can apply for an intent to use trademark, which grants you the rights dating back to the date of the filed application. In other words, you can apply for a trademark registration prior to using the name on any product. All you have to have is a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce.
Trademark Registration can help you avoid situations like Sixth Brewing Company. Magic Hat successfully defended its #9 trademark and forced West Sixth Brewing Company to change their #6 trademark and design. West Sixth doesn’t say how much they spent on litigating this matter. However, as reported by the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the average litigation costs through the end of discovery and through trial for matters involving less than one million dollars are $300,000 and $513,000, respectively. Avoid this situation. Get a trademark.
- Changing your name and trademark litigation is expensive, a U.S. trademark registration can help prevent these headaches.
The Overcrowded Whimsical Names of Beer
As reported by NPR, in their article regarding craft brewers, beer names are vanishing quickly. So how do you make sure you select one that isn’t taken? The answer: you conduct a comprehensive search. A comprehensive trademark search involves searching for phonetically and visually similar names. A good place to start is the USPTO search tool (free!), as well as Beer Advocate’s website, as mentioned above. You should never base your decision to proceed with a name using the USPTO tool alone. For example, let’s say you decide to use the name “Arrogant Son” for your IPA. If you enter this in to the USPTO search bar you get zero results – “Yay!” I’m sure Stone Brewing Co. won’t have an issue. Again, it is a basic tool not a comprehensive search. It is a good place to start, but not a great tool for making a final decision. Some other sources that you’ll want to search are Google, Bing, Secretary of State websites for business filings and state trademarks, and any other place you’d expect to find other brewers. Or you can hire an attorney to conduct the comprehensive search, and provide you with trademark clearance. Either way, the first step, after coming up with a creative name, is to make sure the name is available. This step is becoming more and more important as the craft brew industry continues to get flooded with creativity.
- U.S. trademark registration prevents others from obtaining not only the same name but any similar sounding name
- Make sure a name is available prior to adoption
Creative Craft Beer Trademarks
As mentioned herein, some of the best trademarks come from the craft brewing industry. Here’s a list of creative thinkers that have acquired trademark registration, in no particular order:
- Hoppyum® – Foothills Brewing – U.S. Registration No. 3,954,829
- Smooth Hoperator® – Stoudt Brewing – U.S. Registration No. 3,427,628
- Sexual Chocolate® – Foothills Brewing – U.S. Registration No. 3,427,628
- Long Strange Tripel® – Boulevard Brewing – U.S. Registration No. 3,871,920
- Pure Hoppiness® – Alpine Beer Company – U.S. Registration No. 3,904,197
- Arrogant Bastard® – Stone Brewing Company – U.S. Registration No. 2,283,904
- Zombie Dust® – Three Floyds Brewing, LLC – U.S. Registration No. 4,049,354
- Namaste® – Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales – U.S. Registration No. 4,102,198
- Hopslam® – Bell’s Brewery – U.S. Registration No. 4,615,905
- Hopsecutioner® – Terrapin Beer Company – U.S. Registration No. 3,834,902
- Couchtrippin’® – Lagunitas Brewing Company – U.S. Registration No. 4,735,397
…and the list continues to grow.
Other Craft Beer Trademark Questions
If you have other trademark or copyright questions please submit them via our contact page. We’ll continually update this page to further assist brewers with their intellectual property questions. Order a Trademark Search and Registration by simply clicking below.