If you follow our Life Behind Beer podcast or any beer industry blog, you already know that trademark battles are a common topic in the industry.
Here are some examples of recent battles in the news that we talked about on Episode 20 of Life Behind Beer:
With so many breweries in the market competing to come up with new brands it makes sense that we would have some overlap or similar thinking once in a while because we are all targeting a specific segment of the population – those who drink beer.
Iron Horse Brewery went through our own trademark issue earlier this year with Send It. It has now been resolved and you can read the full story here. Short version, Send It isn’t going anywhere for us. We asked some of our cousins in marketing for their thoughts on trademarks.
What are your thoughts on the importance of trademarking in the industry?
Aimee Bach: Brands are a critical asset. Trademarking is important to protect those brands. Hard work, time, and money was invested into successful brands, and the protection is to stop other companies to hop on the coattails of that success.
Nicole Klauss: When you do your homework and come up with a beer name that aligns with your audience and their interests, and they love the beer, you’re going to want to have that protection so you don’t have to change the name. By that point you’ve probably invested a significant amount of time and money into making the brand successful. You’ve probably also got packaging inventory to run through. You’re not going to want to start from square one, so hopefully you trademarked that sucker or you have a licensing agreement with the brewery that did.
There are so many trademark battles happening in the industry. How do you think breweries can avoid these issues?
AB: Along with basic research which is super important, I think innovation plays a huge role to avoid trademark battles. Instead of following trends and success stories, creating a unique way to brand, stand out, and capture the audience.
NK: I will relate this back to roller derby, because it’s what I do. When we are coming up with a roller derby name we use a database to see if anyone else has the same or similar name. If they do, where are they in proximity to you? Are they in the same playing field/region? If not we still reach out to obtain permission to use the name in our area.
So basically if you’ve got a name you want to use for a beer, look it up in TESS, see what’s similar and if there’s nothing you’re golden to register it. If there are similar ones I think reaching out and playing nicely to find a solution that works for both parties is the way to go. See our blog about Send It. Alternatively, go back to the drawing board and come up with a different name. Like Aimee said, thinking creatively will help you avoid the situation altogether.
Do you think trademarking should be done differently (by state/regionally/something else)?
AB: The idea of separating trademarking laws by region would be interesting. I may be biased though, as our beer is only distributed in the Northwest.
NK: I think if you were going to split it up you’d have to do it regionally. It’d be too difficult for breweries distributed in different states to have to manage multiple trademarks.
Other places have started implementing a .5K event. Should we be worried about trademarking our events or unique engagement pieces?
AB: Those fools. Maybe? Just to say we did it first… lol. But I think if the idea of a .5K or any other event we host is becoming overly popular, it just means it’s time to think of a new, innovative idea. So…. look out 2019.
NK: We know we did it first and so do our fans. There was another .5K event this year in some other state where our beer isn’t even distributed and our fans tagged us in the post and one even commented that we did it first. We wouldn’t have said anything, but it’s neat to see the connection and loyalty that our fans have. They’re the reason we keep doing this whole brewing thing and keep thinking of unique ways to entertain them. You didn’t know we were in the entertainment business did you?
What are your thoughts on the issue? What names should we trademark to make into a beer brand?