2015 Great American Brewers Dialogue Review–Trademarks

September 24, 2015
Denver, CO

More than a dozen brewers and brewery representatives attended the 2015 GABD, held at downtown Denver’s Magnolia Hotel. This year’s Dialogue focused on trademarks, logos and craft brewing. Presenters included Candace Moon, Martha Cecil-Few and Jason Gladfelter. Scheduled for 3 hours, the Dialogue concluded in time for participants, and presenters, to head to the Great American Beer Festival just 3 blocks away.

Backgrounds

Candace Moon is the Craft Beer Attorney out of San Diego, CA. She has worked with over 100 craft breweries and craft breweries-in-planning nationwide, handling business entity formation, alcoholic beverage law, contract review, trademark law, as well as other legal needs. For this dialogue, she covered the technical aspects of applying for, utilization and policing of trademarks.

Martha Cecil-Few lives in Colorado and is an International Trademark Association certified mediator. For almost 20 years, Martha worked at Hershey’s Chocolates in managing their trademark portfolio in the U.S. and internationally. She focused on the logo and label aspects of trademarks during this dialogue.

Jason Gladfelter is a professional mediator and co-owner of OvalOptions, serving as the director for the Brewery Mediation Network. His work in India emboldened a passion in him to help people resolve disagreements effectively face-to-face, thus avoiding costly and lengthy litigation processes. He talked about the repercussions of mis-managed trademark disputes, and other options available.

Format

Since the seminar format is boring, one-dimensional and more or less closed-off to spontaneous questions and comments, OvalOptions embraces, encourages and advocates for dialogue for just about any situation, so the GABD offered just that. We allowed questions to be asked at any stage throughout the session and encouraged conversation.

Topics

Ostensibly, Trademarks and Craft Beer is a narrow and focused topic.  Yet, to the contrary, it is quite broad, mainly due to the rather vague properties of trademarks, trademarking and interpretations of trademark properties and principles.  To effectively “dig through” the various vagaries and tangents, we followed a general path along sub-topics highlighted by common questions. They included:

 

  • What, really, is a trademark (TM)?
  • Who can apply for a TM
  • Why even consider applying for TMs?
  • Who are they for?
  • What does the TM application process look like?
  • How many TMs do I need?
  • Application and impact of TMs in business situations
  • Does a product need to exist before applying for TM?
  • Can non-brewing products carry a TM from the brewery?
  • How similar is too similar in the TM world?
  • Should I TM a logo or artwork?
  • Methods are used for protecting artwork
  • Methods to alter logo or label art to mitigate brand confusion
  • Tips to enhance logo and label art
  • What interstate commerce has to do with TMs
  • The importance of attending out-of-state beer festivals
  • What happens during TM disputes?
  • Significant costs of legal action
  • Preliminary steps to addressing dispute situations
  • Personal communication
  • Negatives of utilizing social media
  • Mediation and settlement conferences
  • Saving time and money while minimizing stress
  • Public image and reputation

Summary

The amount of information covered in this Dialogue cannot be deduced to a summary. Trademarks are important to maintaining brand identity and reputation, as well as consumer respect and loyalty. Combined with that is that fact that, while there are seemingly endless possibilities of artwork and label designs, logos are still open for interpretation and confusion. Yet, some rather simple tricks can be implemented to assuage confusion and avoid tense situations. All in all, it was a great dialogue for all involved: Martha brought chocolates!

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