Step 3: Consider Trademarks
Registering a trademark is not a prerequisite for using a name for your brewery. However, registering a trademark gives you exclusive rights to use that name (or logo, slogan, or other identifying feature) in connection with your beer or other related goods and services. You may seriously regret it if you do not make sure someone else does not already own the name you plan to use or if someone comes along and registers the name before you do. Imagine printing out thousands of dollars worth of labels and merchandise, only to find out that the name you are using belongs to someone else.
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 6,300 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:
- Checking to see if your mark is available for use and registration, and
- 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, 33, and 43, 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. Hiring an attorney for this step is also very helpful to make sure the application is done correctly.