Archive: Legal

Securing Rights to Your Trademark Outside of the U.S.

With tap and shelf space for beer and spirits becoming harder and harder to secure, many American craft brewers and distillers are starting to look beyond the country’s borders for new markets. One thing those companies should be aware of is the fact that trademark rights are limited to the country of registration. So, a regional brewer that has been proactive about securing rights to a beer name in the US will not have a claim to the name in Canada, or elsewhere outside the US. When Should a Brewer/Distiller Pursue Foreign Trademark Rights? The easy answer here is that filing early is almost always better, so as to get an early priority date in the foreign countries. This is […]

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Moonshine University: What’s the Story?

There is a lot of talk about Moonshine University, launched in early 2013. As this Louisville, Kentucky training center moves toward year five of educating new distillers, I contacted some of the principals, to see how it’s going. The questions are from me, and most of the answers are from Christin Head, Registrar at Moonshine University. 1. What is Moonshine University? Moonshine University is the educational division of Distilled Spirits Epicenter, an artisan distillery and education center. Our distillery is adjacent to our state-of-the-art classroom and is set up for small runs and hands-on distilling training. We offer technical training and business management education for start-ups, industry professionals, and those looking for careers in the distilling industry. Our courses are […]

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Preparing for Launch: Steps to Protect Your Brand Name and Trademarks Before You Open

For beverage makers and beverage companies, selecting a name can be daunting and extremely stressful. Every business owner want to pick something that is catchy but that also gives the customer enough information to represent the identity of the brewery, winery or distillery. The trademark will be the basis for the company’s brand and the starting point for social media, advertising, promotional materials (as well as any signs or regulatory information needed for licensing.) It can be exciting and relieving to finally decide on a name and it typically starts a cascade of other, often expensive, steps towards finally opening (or launching a new product line.) With all of this excitement, beverage makers can easily overlook important trademark considerations that […]

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Who Let the Equity Investors In? Tied House Issues Loom in the World of SEC-Regulated Crowdfunding

It’s no secret that bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and other alcohol beverage licensees use crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe to raise capital. In fact, the alcohol beverage industry has found so much success with crowd funding that some companies, like EquityEats, have popped up for the sole purpose of raising capital for restaurants and other industry members. Generally, though, these sites do not allow fundraising entities to offer equity securities in exchange for capital due to the strict “accredited investor” requirements from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, the SEC recently adopted new rules regarding crowd-funding, and in doing so they may have created a tied house nightmare. Or, as one regulator phrased it, “a […]

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Utilizing ‘Non-Traditional’ Trademarks to Stand Out and Build Your Brewery’s Brand

  When most people think of trademarks, they usually think about a brand name or a logo like ‘Budweiser,’ the phrase ‘Taste the Rockies,’ the portrait of Sam Adams. However, trademark protection is not just limited to names and logos. Under certain circumstances, distinctive packaging, bottle shapes, sounds—even smells, color and tactile sensations—can be protected under United States trademark law. These are typically known as “non-traditional” trademarks and represent a wide range of legally-protectable intellectual property rights. The world of non-traditional trademarks can be truly wacky and can quickly cause headaches for companies who do not have a solid plan in place to protect and enforcement these out-of-the-box trademarks. However, through a deliberate and thoughtful strategy, non-traditional trademarks can help […]

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Formulas 101 for Distilleries

Most distillers understand that they must jump through a seemingly never-ending number of hoops to get their products to market in the highly regulated alcohol beverage industry. There are federal and state permits and licenses to obtain, taxes to be paid, reports to be filed, and so on. Aside from obtaining a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for most or all of their products distillers must also receive TTB formula approval to produce and sell certain products. TTB’s rules regarding when formula approvals are required, and the lengthy formula approval process, can be confusing or intimidating for both new and established producers. This article breaks down the basic federal requirements […]

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Craft Brewers & Trademarks: What Beer Brands Need to Know

Think of your brewery’s most important assets. This list will likely include your master brewer, your impeccably sourced malts, or the strong, yet balanced taste of your flagship ale. However, your most important asset is one that a customer will see or hear every time they order your beer or come by your tasting room: Your brand. Whether it’s the name of your brewery, the names of your beers, your logo, distinctive can, or, tap handle, your brand is the foundation on which you will build your company’s reputation. Yet, even with that at stake, there are still many craft brewers that do not do effectively protect their brands. For example, there are endless stories in the news about a […]

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Formulas 101 for Breweries

Most brewers understand that they must jump through a seemingly never-ending number of hoops to get their products to market in the highly regulated alcohol beverage industry. There are federal and state permits and licenses to obtain, taxes to be paid, reports to be filed, and so on. Aside from obtaining a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for most or all of their products, brewers must also receive TTB formula approval to produce and sell certain products. TTB’s rules regarding when formula approvals are required, and the lengthy formula approval process, can be confusing or intimidating for both new and established brewers. This article breaks down the basic federal requirements […]

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What Every Beverage Company Should Know Before Sending Their Next Cease & Desist Letter

We all know the beverage marketplace is loaded with a plethora of products, brand names, and—increasingly—legal jousting about who owns and controls those brand names. A recent federal court decision in California sheds a bright light on just how that jousting works, and how to avoid getting impaled by your own lance. On September 1, 2015, a federal judge in California denied Union Wine Company’s motion to dismiss in FN Cellars, LLC v. Union Wine Company. This case began in May of this year, when FN filed suit against Union, seeking a declaration from the court that FN’s BELLA UNION registration is valid and does not infringe Union’s UNION WINE CO. mark. FN also alleged that Union’s registration was fraudulently […]

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Why Your Whiskey Label is Probably Wrong

It is no surprise that a great many federal rules apply to craft beer and all manner of distilled spirits products. Even more rules apply to whiskey. Beyond the page after page of rules about other spirits products, the Code of Federal Regulations has well over 1,000 additional words pertaining to how whiskey should be produced, aged, how the age should be disclosed, and how the origin must be disclosed. If there was ever any doubt that these rules can be tricky and important, that doubt should be resoundingly put to rest by a spate of recent lawsuits. This is not just a few lawsuits. It is a flood of lawsuits, and the tide is rising, ever since the Pom […]

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