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Legal disputes brew as more craft beers join the market

For many businesses and companies across the nation, branding is incredibly important because it distinguishes a company from its competitors. This is true with both the company name and the names and images associated with their products as well.

But what happens when your company's branding starts to overlap with the branding of another company? It's a problem some of our readers may not have considered before; but if you're in the craft brewing industry, then it's one you may start considering from now on.

With more than 3,000 breweries nationwide, the craft brewing industry has become a crowded one. Although this has given beer enthusiasts a plethora of choices, it has also created a major problem: breweries are starting to infringe on copyrighted names because they are running out of naming ideas.

"There are only so many words and names that make sense with beer, so it's not surprising that many people will come up with the same ideas," explains one California attorney who specializes in trademarks for brewers. So while a brewery might think that they're being clever with the product names, they could find themselves facing a cease-and-desist order down the road if the name has already been trademarked (or is very  similar to one already trademarked) by another brewer.

At a minimum, companies should conduct a thorough internet search for their proposed name and consider whether the name, or a close variation, is being used by another product.  Companies can also search at the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Though most of our Pasadena readers know that a lawyer can be incredibly helpful when it comes to handling possible litigation because of a trademark infringement lawsuit, they can also help avoid such litigation as well. This is achieved through careful trademark and copyright searches done before production of a product even begins. 

Source: NPR, "Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names, And Into Legal Spats," Alastair Bland, Jan. 5, 2015

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