Trademarks & Trade Names
Registering a trademark is not a pre-requisite for using a name for your brewery. Registering a trademark gives you exclusive rights to use a name (or logo, slogan, or other differentiating element) in connection with beer and other related goods and services. That said, you may seriously regret it if you don’t take the time to make sure someone else doesn’t already own the name you plan to use, or if someone comes along and registers the name before you do.
Honestly, it is never too early to start thinking about securing trademark rights in a brand (as long as you plan to start selling beer with the name in the next few years). With somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 breweries, 2,000 distilleries, and 10,000 wineries now operating in the US, good brewery and beer names are going fast.
To claim your mark, I recommend considering (1) checking to see if your mark is available for use and registration, and (2) filing an intent-to-use trademark application for the mark. Checking your mark should at least involve doing a Google search for the mark with the term “beer” or the like, checking beer enthusiast sites for your name, checking the USPTO’s trademark database for your name in classes 32 and 33, and checking TTB’s Public COLA registry. If it comes up clear, you may still want to hire a trademark attorney to do a full clearance search. If that comes up clear, then I would recommend filing a trademark application. Again, you may want to hire a trademark attorney to assist in the filing, to make sure you properly lay claim to your mark.