Monthly Archives: May 2013

Infringement of Copyright, Patent, Trademark for breweries

As an insurance agent for breweries and other related businesses I have a Google alert setup for brewery lawsuits so I can track trends in the industry. Over the past few weeks and months I have seen a large increase in trademark infringement lawsuits and was ready to put together a post when I came across this story from The Bulletin:

Naming a beer isn’t that easy

The article brings to light the many challenges of naming a beer and does a great job citing actual cases. Rather than rehashing what Rick Armon already reviewed I will share some links and info on the insurance implications.

Most general liability policies include a very specific exclusion for “Infringement of Copyright, Patent, Trademark or Trade Secret” but often times give back coverage for infringement in your advertisement. Because of this lawsuits relating to infringement cases may not be covered by your general liability insurance. With this in mind be very careful when naming your brewery and/or your beers.

Here are a couple of sites that may be helpful to determine if a trademark exists:

Unites States Patent and Trademark Office Electronic Search System

Trademark Hound

If all trademark suits were handled the way Jack Daniel’s handles them the insurance exclusion really wouldn’t be an issue but don’t count on it. Read article about Jack Daniel’s polite cease and desist letter here and see the actual letter here.

James Sanborn, CIC, CRM
Insurance Guy Beer Blog & New England Beer Insurance

Social Media Marketing

Social media is a great marketing tool for any business and breweries are no exception. By using Twitter, Facebook, Tumlr and the many other social media sites breweries are able to stay connected with their customers and build brand loyalty.

The TTB recently released a circular relating to social media marketing of alcoholic beverages and The Beer Babe brought it to my attention. This circular reviews the do’s and dont’s of marketing your brewery via social media and what you see may surprise you.

Department of the Treasury – TTB Circular 2013-01

The bottom line is social media has the same rules and regulations as TV or print media with the same required and prohibited statements.

27 CFR Part 7 – §7.52 – Mandatory Statements (Breweries)

27 CFR Part 7 – §7.54 – Prohibited Statements (Breweries)

Brochure from the TTB about advertising

I did a quick review of some brewery clients social media pages and found most Facebook pages included the required information as part of the About page however most Twitter pages did not due to the limited space. I would also encourage brewers to include a statement that by following or liking the page you agree that you are 21+.

The requirements differ slightly for wineries and distillers, see links below:

27 CFR Part 4 – § 4.62 – Mandatory Statements (Wineries)

27 CFR Part 4 – § 4.64 – Prohibited Practices (Wineries)

27 CFR Part 5 – § 5.63 – Mandatory Statements (Distillers)

27 CFR Part 5 – § 5.65 – Prohibited Practices (Distillers)

While the TTB does not require approval of advertising they do offer a free pre-clearance service to look for compliance issues and they do monitor ads. I assume fines or other penalties could be levied if the required statements are not in place.