Craft Breweries Run Out Of Good Names, Sue Each Other

Image courtesy of (Adam Fagen)

If you like beer, it’s great news that there’s a proliferation of craft breweries opening up across the American beerscape. There’s a problem with this entrepreneurial fervor, though: breweries are running out of names for their businesses or their brews.

We saw this even in a post from earlier today, where a brewery was criticized for naming an India pale ale named Gandhi Bot. The product amused some people and offended others, and a movie about a pacifist robot would be really interesting, but it really ought to be easier to name a product without being criticized or sued.

In the artwork accompanying their story on the subject, NPR shows a bottle of “Three Toed Sloth” beer, which is not currently the name of a beer or a brewery, but now it probably will be within six months.

When two craft brewers come up with the same product name but distribute their products in different areas of the country, this doesn’t matter all that much. When companies seek wider distribution, then brand confusion turns into a potential problem. Two brewers that both sold a beer called “Salvation” learned about each other and came to an amicable agreement, even blending two similar beers together and selling them under the name “Collaboration Not Litigation.”

Not all cases are so heartwarming, though, and there’s even an attorney who specializes in helping craft brewers sort through trademarks and legal disputes. Trademarks are limited to an industry, and alcoholic beverages are sort of lumped together. It’s one thing to market a beer under a name, but if you don’t apply for the trademark, a competitor can make a similar product, apply for the trademark, and then sue you.

Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names, And Into Legal Spats [NPR]