With so many new microbreweries popping up in Sacramento, the Bay Area,transparent and the Greater San Diego area, I felt compelled to write the present piece for the benefit of the aspiring, as well as the established, microbrew entrepreneur. These individuals undoubtedly pour (excuse the pun) their hearts, souls, and hard-earned money into the development of their breweries and their attempts to formulate the perfect brew. However, from my own research and analysis it seems clear that these entrepreneurs are regularly overlooking one thing in particular—their intellectual property rights.

The thought first occurred to me when I was sitting in San Diego having an IPA with a couple of my friends. As I stared at the bottle on the table it occurred to me that despite my everyday involvement with intellectual property, I had never looked into whether some of these companies were properly safeguarding their intellectual property rights. I immediately went to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) website on my cellphone and began searching for some of my favorite breweries and their assorted brews on the database. I quickly learned that some of the companies were prudently protecting their intellectual property in their company’s name, certain brews, and certain designs/graphics. However, I also learned that some of my favorite breweries were not doing anything to protect their intellectual property. I discussed the matter with my friends and express how I could not understand why these companies would not try to protect their intellectual property. Then, it occurred to me that some of them probably never thought about it, or were simply unaware what types of protection exist under the intellectual property laws. After all, prior to my involvement in the intellectual property world, I never thought about trademarks, trade dress, copyrights, or patents. Accordingly, I decide to draft this brief, non-exhaustive discussion of trademark law’s application to the microbrewery industry and suggest that breweries consider protecting their rights as they grow as businesses.


Continue Reading Brewing Up Some IP

In this author’s opinion, I believe that most consumers see wine, beer and mineral water as unrelated products and would not believe that beer, wine or mineral water that share similar trademark elements (e.g., similar words or similar design) are related or emanate from the same source.  However, the TTAB has found otherwise.

Beginning with its 1992 decision in In re Sailerbrau Franz Sailer, the TTAB has been receptive to arguments that wine and beer are related.  In In re Sailerbrau, the TTAB found the mark CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS for beer confusingly similar to the mark CRISTOBAL COLON and Design for sweet wine.  The TTAB found persuasive the third party registrations introduced by the trademark examiner showing that a number of companies have registered their marks for both beer and wine.

Following that case, the TTAB adjudicated a number of non-precedential cases in which the TTAB found beer and wine related.  For example, in In re Stonestreet, LLC, the TTAB found the mark BUCKEYE for wine confusingly similar to the mark BUCKEYE SPARKLING DRY (stylized) for beer.  Similar to In re Sailerbrau, the TTAB found persuasive third party registrations covering both beer and wine.  The applicant in In re Stonestreet argued that the Federal Circuit case of G.H. Mumm & Cie v. Desnoes & Geddes Ltd., required a finding that beer and wine are not related.  However, the TTAB was not persuaded.  The record in G.H. Mumm demonstrated the MUMM brand champagne to be a premium sparkling wine marketed by one of France’s top quality champagne producers.  The record in Stonestreet lacked any such distinction.
Continue Reading Clearing Marks In the Beverage Space Has Become Increasingly Complex