Brewers Association Marketing and Advertising Code Update: A beer by any other name doth taste as hoppy

Coming up with the recipe for your new brew is only half the battle, you also have to come up with a creative name and label. While we’ve discussed protecting your brand through trademarks in previous posts, brewers should also be aware of the revised Brewers Association Marketing and Advertising Code. In an article for Craft Brewing Business, attorney Jonathan Dunitz discusses recent amendments to the Code that aim to avoid the use of potentially offensive names and labels and advance the Association’s goal of increasing diversity in the craft beer industry. While the Code’s limitations on offensive content are new, the issue dates back much further with varying viewpoints on the issue. (more…)

PODCAST: What’s Brewing in Real Estate Development – An Interview with Chris Thompson

In this episode of Verrill Voices: What’s Brewing in Real Estate Development, Spencer Thibodeau interviews Chris Thompson, one of the real estate developers involved in the Thompson’s Point development in Portland, Maine. Spencer and Chris discuss the history of the ongoing Thompson’s Point development project and what may lie ahead while enjoying a delicious glass of “The Substance Ale” at Bissell Brothers Taproom, one of the flagship tenants at Thompson’s Point. (more…)

Managing Risk in the Craft Brewing Industry

In a presentation for The Risk Management Association Young Professionals Group, Austin Street Brewery Owner Will Fisher; GHM Insurance Agency’s James Sanborn; TD Bank Relationship Manager Shauna Miller; and Verrill Dana Attorney Tawny Alvarez, gathered at Austin Street Brewery on its 3rd Anniversary to provide an overview of the craft brewing industry. Some key takeaways for approaching risk management as a brewery owner are outlined below. (more…)

Build, Protect & Grow Your Brand

With the craft beer industry continuing to gain momentum, it becomes increasingly more difficult to come up with creative and unique beer and brewery names, as well as to ensure your recipes, people and logos remain your own.

In an article for Craft Brewing Business, Verrill Dana attorney Kelly Donahue, cautions breweries to beware of beer names that reference famous trademarks. As nearly 5,400 trademark applications containing the term “beer” were filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2016, up more than 23% from the previous year, brand owners are looking to protect their valuable trademarks. In the article, Kelly discusses oppositions involving breweries and famous trademarks, such as “Malterial Girl” and “Golden Ticket.”

In another article for the premier issue of CraftBrand & Marketing magazine, Verrill Dana attorney Tawny Alvarez takes the concept of protecting your brand a step further in that your people are a vital component to your brand. (more…)

Hey That’s Me Drinking That Beer! UGC Rights at Issue in Beer/Photo Lawsuit

Kayla Kraft (no known relation to the cheese people) found herself on a Natural Light coaster with a fake handlebar mustache drinking a beer under the heading “Every Natty Has a Story.”  She apparently didn’t like that story and just sued Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Natural Light beer, for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy.

According to the complaint, in 2013 Kraft’s friend Kathyrn Belasco snapped the mustachioed photo of her using Kraft’s phone.  Kraft then posted the photo on Facebook.  Three years later, Belasco assigned all of her rights to the photo to Kraft.

News reports say that the photo was submitted to Natural Light’s Facebook page as part of the “Natty Rewards” contest run in 2014 by Anheuser-Busch where contestants were asked to submit a photo of themselves “acting natural.”  (Unknown whether drinking beer with a fake mustache was Ms. Kraft’s natural state.)  Rules are here. The Rules provide that photos submitted are the original work of the entrant and do not infringe upon anyone’s copyright or publicity rights.  The Rules also grant Anheuser-Busch a license to use the photo in any and all media for any purpose.  Basically, the Rules say everything that’s typical for a UGC contest.

The Complaint doesn’t mention the contest, but does allege that the photo has been used as part of Natural Light’s “Every Natty Has a Story” campaign without Kraft’s or Belasco’s consent.  Anheuser-Busch has not yet answered the Complaint. (more…)

Canadian Company Pursues Moose Trademark: Trouble Brewing for Maine Beer Makers

As brewers and residents of Maine, whose state animal after all is a moose, this recent Bangor Daily News article about a large Canadian corporation chasing U.S. brewers with a trademark for “moose” is cause for concern. I know from my dealings with Maine brewers that potential disputes over product names are usually resolved peacefully and respectfully, but keep in mind that there are other, larger companies beyond our borders who don’t necessarily take the same approach.  (more…)

A Bourbon Conundrum

The recent week-long strike at two Jim Beam facilities in Kentucky highlights a very interesting tension in the current workplace.   Workers at the Boston and Clermont, Kentucky facilities overwhelmingly rejected the second contract proposal in two weeks, stepping out on strike on October 15, 2016.  The second contract proposal included “substantial wage increases” for already very well-paid employees, which left management at a quandary as to why the workers voted to strike. The workers, for their part, wanted a guarantee that the company would hire more full-time workers and stop relying as heavily on temporary workers, among other complaints with the contract proposal.  The crux of their complaint was that they felt that they had to work too much and it was interfering with work-life balance.

Bourbon production, until the recent boom, had traditionally followed a more seasonal production pattern and the company had been hesitant to hire full-time workers during the busy production periods, as they did not want to have to lay the workers off when production inevitably slowed.  However, with the popularity of bourbon at an all-time high, the production schedule for the past two to three years remained consistently high.  The combination of the company’s reluctance to hire more full time workers and the consistently high demand for bourbon resulted in the full-time workers being compelled to take on more overtime hours to keep up with the demand.  Management was surprised by the vote to strike because workers at the two facilities are paid base hourly rates of up to more than three times the Kentucky minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  At time and a half for all hours worked in excess of forty, those employees were enjoying a significant and sustained spike in their annual earnings.  Union officials acknowledged that the employees knew that they were well-paid; however, they felt that the company had neglected to hire enough full-time, regular employees to keep up with production demands in the now $3 billion business of bourbon production. (more…)

This Week on Tap: Alternative Minimum Tax and Craft Breweries

We all enjoy tax savings, and breweries and distilleries should be taking advantage of recent legislation that went into effect earlier this year that makes the Research and Development tax credit permanent and enhances the tax credit by not limiting the credit to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).  Further, the legislation provides a new potential payroll tax credit offset opportunity!  You can read more about the credit here or contact a member of Verrill Dana’s Breweries Distilleries and Wineries Practice Group and Tax Practice Group to discuss more.

I Wine, You Wine, We all Wine for Ice Cream . . . But Not in Massachusetts

Late last month, Massachusetts’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission issued an advisory entitled “Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) Advisory to § 18 Wholesalers/Importers and § 19 Manufacturers Regarding Alcohol-Infused Ice Cream.”  The Advisory notes that Massachusetts General Law chapter 138 prohibits the importation, manufacturing, and sale of ice cream that contains alcohol with one limited exception—“where the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) has classified in writing that a particular product is a ‘nonbeverage product.’”  The ABCC further noted that the TTB classification was “specific to each individual product a business manufactures, and not a business’s entire line of products.”  The advisory is available here.

Join Us at Brew Talks New England 2016

Verrill Dana’s Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries Group is excited to sponsor this year’s Brew Talks New England, part of Brewbound’s traveling series of meetup events for professionals in the brewing industry, on October 24 at Jack’s Abby in Framingham, Massachusetts. The program will offer both educational and networking opportunities for both new and veteran brewers, distributors, retailers, investors and other professionals interested in the craft beer industry.

Learn more about the event and register here. Please note, 100% of ticket proceeds will be donated to a local charity selected by the host brewery.

We hope to see you there!