It is estimated that there are over three thousand craft breweries in the U.S. Now imagine that each brewery has three brand name beers. That is nine thousand brand names for beers alone. It is no wonder that beer trademark disputes are rampant.
One interesting niche of beer trademarks is whether or not a term of art in the beer industry is “merely descriptive” (or generic) or if the word or phrase is capable of trademark registration. A merely descriptive term is not capable of trademark registration and does not receive any statutory or common law trademark protections. For example, the term “Session beer” in the beer industry is generally defined as a low alcohol content beer. Visit any supermarket or beer store and you will find a variety of “Session” beers. However, a Pacific Northwest brewery has a half dozen trademarks involving the word “Session” and has instituted numerous US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board actions attempting to prohibit brewers from using the term “Session” in their trademarks-even when the Brewers disclaim any rights in the term “Session.” This issue more than likely stems from the US Trademark Office approving a trademark (in this case six trademarks) without the knowledge that the word is a term of art in the industry. This issue will be litigated for the next year to eighteen months and the outcome will be followed closely.
When you need to trademark your product or, if you’re in the brew industry, your beer brands, call Trademark Attorney, Casey Otis, at 336-723-7200.
Casey has trademarked countless brands and breweries. Casey has branded logos and names for entire professional sports leagues.
Session is a registered trademark. It’s also a generic term for a lower alcohol beer used in a drinking session.