Posts by: Colin Hay

New England Brew Summit

This coming Friday, April 1st (insert obligatory April Fools joke), The Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine will serve as host for the first ever New England Craft Brew Summit. I hope all of our readers will have a chance to attend as the event looks to be incredibly informative and, obviously, a really great time.

But I think this event speaks to a larger point that is incredibly important for our community. Craft beverage makers are having an impact on the New England economy that extends far beyond their tasting rooms or storefronts. The number of supporting industry members attending speaks for itself. But it is great to see that this opportunity for Maine and New England at large is attracting the attention of some of our politicians, as both Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree will be in attendance at the event. All in all, it looks to be a great time, and the event bodes well for the growth of the craft beer and alcoholic beverage industry in New England.

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Nuts and Bolts of Registering Your Brewery Name

We have previously covered the process for developing your brewery/distillery/winery’s name, including the essential step of clearance. Once you have found and cleared the perfect name, the next step is to protect it. The best way to protect your name is by registering it as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The first step in the registration process is determining what type of mark you are going to register. There are two broad types of marks: standard character marks or stylized marks. A standard character mark protects the word or words you are using, without reference to the font, size, color, shape, etc. of the characters. In contrast, a stylized mark is designed to protect more specialized marks, such as an artistic logo or stylized fonts, shapes, colors. A standard mark provides protection for your name, preventing others from using the words you have registered no matter how they attempt to dress or stylize them. If you have developed a company name and an associated logo, often times it makes sense to register both the words (as a standard character mark) and the logo itself as a stylized mark. (more…)

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Selecting Your Company’s Name

Like anyone who has ever been a child1, I always wanted to have a cool nickname. Unfortunately, according to the unwritten rules of coolness, you can never give yourself a nickname. Luckily those interested in starting an alcoholic beverage business of your own, one of the key steps in starting a brewery, distillery, or winery is coming up with a name for your business.

The right name can bring in customers, set yourself off from your competition, and generally bring happiness and success to you and your business. Choosing the wrong name can spell disaster. Your name needs to be original, which sounds simple enough, but with over 4,000 breweries, 800 distilleries, and over 8,000 wineries in the United States at the end of 2015, with more joining every day, originality is harder than it seems. (more…)

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You + TTB 2015-1= Happiness! New Ruling from TTB Lessens Burden of Seeking Formula Approval

Good news! The TTB has expanded the universe of ingredients added to malt beverages that no longer require a brewer to file a Formula Approval before obtaining a COLA. As anyone who has tried to add some creative ingredients (or, in reality, pretty much anything that wasn’t hops) to a malt beverage during the past decade will know, getting that product to market required going through the TTB’s burdensome Formula Approval requirement. The Formula Approval requirement added significant time to the overall label approval process. Furthermore, failure of a brewer to obtain a Formula Approval prior to filing for a COLA was the most common reason for rejecting a brewer’s COLA application. As brewers began to experiment more with the world of ingredients that can make great beer, the issue came to a head. (more…)

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Deceptive Marketing Lawsuits Against Alcoholic Beverage Industry on the Rise

The number of lawsuits against alcoholic beverage manufacturers for alleged deceptive marketing grew again this past December, with both Guinness and Foster’s Beer facing new lawsuits in federal court. In Massachusetts, a consumer filed suit against Guinness alleging that the company improperly advertised that “all Extra Stout sold in North America is brewed in Ireland at historic St. James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin.”

In New York, a consumer filed a suit alleging that Foster’s marketing implied that the beer was brewed in Australia, based on its advertisements that featured actors with Australian accents and its slogans “Foster’s, Australian for Beer” and “How to Speak Australian.” Foster’s moved its brewing operations to Fort Worth, Texas in 2011, and a “misled” consumer is seeking compensation from Foster’s. (more…)

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Potential Loans for Craft Beverage Producers to Upgrade Energy Efficiency or Install Renewable Energy Technology

In December of 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that it was now accepting applications for its Rural Energy for America Program, a program to provide loans and grants to agricultural producers and small rural business for energy efficiency improvements or new renewable energy systems.

To qualify you must be an agricultural producer with at least 50% of gross income coming from agricultural operations or a small business in a qualified non-urban area. To see more detailed qualification requirements, review the program fact sheet here. (more…)

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AB InBev-SABMiller Merger

By now, just about everyone has heard the news that AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer, owner of Anheuser-Busch and many other brands, plans to acquire SABMiller, the second largest beer producer. The reception among those in the craft beer industry to this news has been chilly to say the least. In the United States, there is significant concern that any such merger will have anticompetitive effects, particularly focusing on the potential squeezing out of craft brewers on both supply of raw ingredients and the distribution of final products. The merger will undergo significant review by the United States Department of Justice to determine whether it violates U.S. Antitrust law. (more…)

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure

Welcome to Lawyers on Tap, a blog dedicated to keeping you up to date with the legal issues facing the craft beverage industry. As this is the first blog post, let me open by saying, hello from Verrill Dana. Our firm has been assisting those in the craft beverage industry for several decades. Over that time we have developed considerable experience dealing with the particular challenges facing the industry. In this blog we will hope to provide you with information on trends, issues, and interesting news related to the legal side of operating in this complex sector. Given that this is our first post here on the blog, it seems fitting to cover the first issue that faces every brewery, distillery, or winery, choosing a business structure. (more…)

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