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

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