Please read the upcoming issue of American Brewer magazine for Ross’ article about how to best select your mark and avoid dispute.

When seeking trademark protection, it is important to begin with a distinctive mark. Trademark laws are designed to protect consumers from being confused about the source and affiliation of a given product or services. A consumer looking for a product build upon quality should not be tricked into purchasing goods or services that are confusingly similar to another that may simply be leeching off of the goodwill of the other. This also has the secondary effect of protecting the goodwill created by trademark owners that have built their business on quality.

Why Register?

—Federal registration is prima facie evidence of the registrant’s ownership of the mark. 15 U.S.C.S. § 1057(b). Federal registration of a mark constitutes constructive nationwide use of the mark from the date of the application for registration.
—Main advantages:
  • 1) prima facie evidence of validity, registration, ownership of the trademark, exclusive right to use the trademark and even that the mark is not confusingly similar to other registered trademarks
  • 2) federal jurisdiction for infringement which allows recovery of treble damages and attorney’s fees, and
  • 3) constructive notice to all others that the mark is already in use

Protects your investment in quality and deters third parties with inferior products from coming along and using a similar name that might cause people to wonder why you have put your name on the inferior product.

Trademark Infringement – Likelihood of Confusion

The ultimate question, for purposes of determining liability in trademark infringement actions, is whether there is a likelihood that consumers will be confused about the relationship or affiliation between plaintiff’s products or services and the defendant’s products or services. In making its determination, a court may consider the following factors:

  • (1) the strength of the plaintiff’s mark (arbitrary (Apple for computers) and fanciful (Xerox for copiers) names that bear no relation to the product are the strongest);
  • (2) the similarity of the design;
  • (3) the similarity of the service;
  • (4) the similarity of service outlets and customers (industry and geographic location served);
  • (5) the similarity of advertising media used;
  • (6) the defendant’s intent;
  • (7) any actual confusion (great evidence, but lack of actual confusion not hurtful to infringement claim).

Beer Industry Trademark Disputes

     The following list of disputes in the beer industry demonstrates the need to perform a thorough search and to protect your mark early on:

  • Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery’s Righteous Ale vs.  Renegade Brewing Company’s Ryeteous Rye IPA (Changed name to “Redacted”)
  • Ravenswood Winery vs. Black Raven Brewing (Black Raven lost due to likelihood of consumer confusion)
  • Lift Bridge’s Farm Girl vs. Lucette Brewing Co.’s Farmer’s Daughter.
  • Magic Hat #9 vs. West Sixth logo
  • Georgetown changed name of its 9LB Porter due to dispute with Magic Hat
  • Oskar Blues changed Gordon Knight to G’Knight to avoid conflict with Gordon Biersch
  • Marble Brewery vs. Marble City Brewing Company (Marble City changed name)
  • Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA and Red Rocket Ale vs. Central City’s Red Racer (Red Racer changed name)
  • Full Sail vs. Grey Sail (Grey Sail added Rhode Island to name)
  • Smuttynose changed its original logo from a smooth yellow triangle in the background to a rock shaped triangle (w/o smooth edges) because Bass opposed its mark