Detroit Trademark Attorneys: Craft Beer Brands Need Trademark Protection, Too
The explosion of the craft beer brewing industry has generated a profusion of new names, advertising slogans, logos—brands—into the marketplace.
Many of these new brands are the product of start-ups and newer entrepreneurs armed with innovative brew recipes.
However, what truly distinguishes one beer from another on a store's shelf is often the name and design on the bottle.
It is important to protect those brand identities as quickly as possible.
What Is Required to Trademark a Craft Beer Name or Logo?
The first thing to keep in mind about trademark law is that, unlike copyright or patent law, it does not exist to protect the creative work of the creator.
Trademark law exists to protect consumers. Federal trademark registration is granted to mark owners whose name or logo or slogan is unique enough to identify to the consuming public the source of the goods or service that they are purchasing.
In other words, the public's right to know what they are buying and from whom is what trademark registration exists to protect.
Furthermore, Federal trademark registration is extended to protect only those word or design marks identifying the origin of products or services sold in interstate commerce. In other words, products or services sold across state lines only.
Craft Beer Trademark Registration: Best Practices for Branding
With these general thoughts in mind, when creating a brand for a new craft beer product or line, it is best to keep trademark registration requirements in mind.
After all, it does no good to sink a healthy amount of capital into a brand if can't be protected from knock-offs and competitors.
The strongest trademarks are those that are those that are unique (or "fanciful") and so distinctive that there can be no likelihood of consumer confusion as to the source and quality of the good or service with which it is associated.
US courts have described 5 categories of increasing distinctiveness. The more distinctive a mark is, the more likely it is that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The categories are:
In short, however, any brand, for a beer or otherwise, is most easily registered as a trademark when it is unique and cannot be mistaken for any other brand and does not merely describe the product itself.
For example, "Michigan Beer" would be a generic trademark that would likely encounter strong opposition from the USPTO.
What Is the Process for Registering a Trademark for a Craft Beer Name or Logo?
The first step in registering a trademark is to retain a knowledgeable trademark attorney to conduct a proper trademark clearance search.
The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC will work with you prior to the filing of any application to clear your mark and to advise you as to the risk involved in proceeding to file an application for a film or book title.
A full clearance search will scour not only the Federal register of trademarks but also state registrations, domain names, business name registrations, social media, and other "hits."
We will then draft an Opinion Letter weighing the risks of filing an application for the registration of the proposed trademark so that you can make an educated decision as to whether to proceed or not.
If you do, we will draft your application and file it with the USPTO after your review, approval, and signature.
The process from that point generally takes up to a year to complete.
3-4 months after the application is filed, the USPTO assigns an attorney-examiner to review the application.
The examiner will either approve the application for publication, issue a refusal known as an "Office Action," or require minor changes to allow the application to proceed to publication.
If the examiner issues an Office Action, we will have to file a response and effectively litigate the issue, if you wish to proceed.
If the application simply proceeds, it will enter a 30-day period during which is is published and available for review by third party mark-holders.
If any of them find that the proposed mark presents a likelihood of confusion with their, they may file an Opposition, which will have to be litigated before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB").
This sort of litigation is time-consuming and expensive, and it is always best avoided in advance by a proper clearance search.
If, however, no such Opposition is filed, after the application passes through the publication period, it is registered on the Principal Gazette with the USPTO and is then "protected" and registered.
Thereafter, the mark must be maintained and its continuing use in interstate commerce continually demonstrated with "Statement of Use" filings with the USPTO at regular intervals, or the mark will be deemed abandoned.
Trademark Registration for Craft Beer Names and Logos: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that trademark registration is much more than mere "form-filling."
Of course, a trademark can be registered without the use of an attorney, but, given all of the contingencies described above that might occur in the registration process, retainer of a knowledgeable trademark attorney is highly recommended.
We offer free initial consultations in-office or virtually to Michigan clients and virtual or telephonic consultations to clients throughout the United States for trademark matters (only).
If you are interested in discussing the filing of an initial trademark application or defending an office action already filed, please contact us to discuss your matter or click here to directly schedule your initial trademark consultation into our calendaring system.