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Three essential steps to prevent your next beer brand being a financial disaster

After months of planning, researching, brewing and tasting, everything has come together. What’s more, inspiration has struck you and you’ve thought of a great name for your new beer.
There are three essential steps that your trade mark attorney will recommend you take before your product is launched to the thirsty public, all of which can be done for a relatively small investment.
Failure to take any of these steps could mean you are left with an IP problem, more commonly known as thousands in legal bills, leading to your brand being scuppered before you’ve hardly started.

1. CHECK

Make sure you can use the name.

Is your name or something similar already registered as a trade mark for beer, or in use by a competitor? With the explosion of growth in the business of brewing, you are entering a crowded and competitive market. Be aware of the consequences of entering that market unprepared; you could find yourself at the wrong end of an infringement action.
Do your research, but be aware that checking use on the internet via a Google search is not enough. Trade marks are often registered in advance and may be held for as much as five years before being put into commercial use. So, just because you don’t find the mark when you search the internet, don’t conclude that you are free to use and register it. If you find use of the mark for wines and spirits, you may think that confusion will be unlikely, but your competitor may not share this view.
There is no substitute for a full trade mark search, which looks at the UK and European Registers to check for all confusingly similar marks. Your trade mark attorney will be able to conduct such a search and provide you with a reasoned opinion based on current case law, on whether you should go ahead with this brand.

2. PROTECT

Make sure no one else can use the name.

Firstly, check with your trade mark attorney whether the name is registrable. A trade mark cannot be descriptive of the goods concerned or their characteristics, otherwise the Intellectual Property Office will not give you a monopoly in it. You won’t be able to register such marks as MODERN REAL ALE, HOME BREWERY, WELSH BLACK BITTER. All these marks have been applied for as trade marks and abandoned when they did not meet the requirements of the UK Office. A strong brand is one which is memorable and one which you are able to protect. You ideally want consumers to commit to you from the start, and they cannot do that if they struggle to remember who you are.
Protect your chosen name by registering it in respect of the correct goods. Your trade mark attorney will advise you how to navigate the pitfalls of the registration procedure, taking care of the application every step of the way.
Once registered, you are able to take action against other parties who copy your name. Imitation is not flattery, and will cost you money if you don’t do something about it. What if someone else copies your name, and sells a poor quality product? The consequences of confusion with such an outfit and your resultant loss of reputation will cause damage to your goodwill.

3. MONITOR

Make sure you look after your name.

Registration of your name is not the end of the story. Trade marks are a valuable asset of your business, and their value can decrease through inaction on the part of your business. Once successful breweries grow, they amass a portfolio of trade mark registrations for their products. Such careful business planning and acquisition of assets reflects well on the company’s balance sheet and these days is a must in order to attract savvy investors.
To monitor your trade mark, your attorney will recommend a watching service. This will continually sweep the Trade Mark Registers so that you are informed if another business applies for a mark which is the same or similar to your own.
Not everyone registers their name as a trade mark. You should therefore monitor your competitors, and look out for usage at trade shows and exhibitions. If another party is using your mark, don’t try and stop them yourselves, but take a photo of what they are doing, and pass it on to your lawyer. Look through trade and industry blogs and magazines for potential infringements. Have your trade mark attorney contact the party involved to request them to cease use, before too much damage is done to your brand. If consumers are confused, revenue will be being diverted elsewhere.

We’re here to help you avoid these unwanted consequences. If you have any enquiries, we can be contacted on [email protected] or 01223 421779.

Ward Trade Marks Limited are a Cambridge based trade mark firm specialising in the registration and enforcement of trade marks for the brewing industry. We have long standing experience in this field, having worked on the trade mark portfolio of Whitbread and then Interbrew (now known as InBev), and subsequently with smaller brewers and craft beverage makers. It goes without saying, we’re also beer and brewing enthusiasts!

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December 18, 2015 Rachael share this article