One area where this is becoming more prevalent is the craft beer brewing business. Because of the explosive growth of the market segment, with more than 3,000 breweries, it is not surprising that some brewers give their beers similar or identical names.
With thousands of brewers all hopping on the bandwagon, there is great potential for inadvertent trademark infringement to occur.
While most brewers are not attempting to counterfeit another brewer’s beer, brewers using the same or nearly the same typeface, names or phrases for their beers, could easily confuse consumers.
This is where the relevant market becomes important. If a brewer in San Diego and a brewer in the Boston area only sell their beers in the local market, within 50 miles of their brewery, even identically named beers are not going to cause any likelihood of confusion with consumers.
This is because the markets are 3,000 miles apart and the number of consumers who would have the opportunity to buy beer in both markets is likely to be quite small.
However, if a brewer on the West Coast attempted to sell a “Boston Lager,” it is very likely that a cease and desist letter would arrive shortly from a well-know Boston brewery that has substantial national distribution. The distance would not protect them, because national distribution would mean consumers could be confused by similar named products.
When you are beginning a business, trademark issues may seem of little concern, but should your product become successful beyond your local market, it could become the source of distracting and expensive business litigation.
Examining the name of your business and the names of your products for trademark implications, in advance before infringement claims occur and cease and desist letters arrive, can save you from having bitter regrets down the road.
Npr.com, “Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names, And Into Legal Spats,” Alastair Bland, January 5, 2015