If you search trademark disputes often, as I do, you will notice the beer industry popping up in headlines on a regular basis. I think one reason this industry is so prone to trademark issues is the cyclical nature of the business. Brewers are pressured to introduce new seasonal products on a regular basis, and each new style needs a name, a design and a label.
In a recent dispute, a Cincinnati craft brewery had to pull a beer from shelves that it had marketed under the name “Gnarly Brown” for three years. That move was the result of a trademark dispute initiated by a Minneapolis brewery with a seasonal offering called “Good Ol’ Gnarly Brown.” For the moment, the Ohio brewery has ceased production on its brown ale and has instead chosen to release a pale ale to meet consumer demand. The brown ale will likely return to shelves down the road with a new name and can/bottle design.
From both a marketing and production perspective, that kind of change can result in huge delays, profit losses and questions about which current or new product will fill the gap. No company wants to be faced with that kind of challenge, but it is wise to be prepared for the possibility.
Whether you make beer or electronic gadgets, the lesson here is to thoroughly research trademarks before launching a new product in your lineup. People within the same industry often use the same product lingo and slang, so you run the risk of brainstorming name ideas eerily similar to your competitors. You also want the consumer to easily identify how the product fits into your offerings and their lives, which can be a hard line to walk while trying to find a unique moniker.
To learn more about trademarks and other intellectual property protections in any industry, contact EmergeCounsel today.