Are Trademarks for Beer Names Becoming a Commodity?January 9, 2015

While typically we think of finite resources such as oil and coal as commodities, it could be that the next big commodities are names for craft beers and breweries. According to a recent NPR story, which can be foundhere, the craft brewing industry is becoming an increasingly crowded industry with more than 3,000 breweries in the United States. Unfortunately for many craft brewers, the individuals behind naming the brews tend to adopt similar—and in some cases, identical—names and labels for their products. And although it may be the case that many in the craft brewing industry do not seem to mind sharing similar or identical names for their beers, there still remain significant risks of knowingly adopting and using similar marks to other breweries.

The risks involved do not relate solely to future legal battles; rather, the biggest risk may actually be the potential damage confusingly similar trademarks can do to a trademark owner's reputation. Trademarks are intended to be source identification tools that allow consumers to distinguish product A from product B in the marketplace. In a crowded industry such as the craft brewing industry, when the marketplace is inundated with hundreds of similar and derivative names for beers, it becomes increasingly difficult for the consumer to identify one particular beer from another. The implication being the trademark for which typically businesses spend significant financial resources to develop and market, fails to serve its very purpose: distinguishing brands in the marketplace.

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