By the time the 1970s rolled around, there were about fifty breweries in the United States, according to The Economist. A slew of new laws promoting tax breaks for small microbreweries spurred an era of innovation and explosion of smaller, craft breweries. Today, there are over 3,000 breweries, making the industry both crowded and competitive.
One of the prominent issues that arises, according to this article from NPR.org, is the challenge of finding a name that is not already taken by another brewery. There is a dearth of names that have not already been trademarked by others that connote a positive association with beer. Consequently, there have been more legal issues popping up with name trademarks because so many designs and names infringe on others’ similar ideas.
With so many breweries around the country, people do not have malicious intention to copy others’ names and designs, but there is inevitable overlap with so much market saturation. Frequent legal issues emerge because there are public misconceptions about the fact that merely providing state registrations and ownership of domain names ensure ownership of the copyright/trademark; but that is not always the case. A trademark attorney navigates murky waters where there is no national database of beer brands/trademarks, and conducts common law and internet searches – to see if there are overlapping images or names of other breweries. Intellectual property is vital to creating a strong business, and this web of legal issues associated with craft breweries’ trademarks illustrates that.