Trademarks for the alcoholic beverage industry can be significantly different than trademarks in other industries.  There is a litany of regulations affecting alcoholic beverage production, distribution, and product labeling.  As they say, one size does not fit all.  I love a bargain.  I love the convenience of e-commerce.  But when my livelihood is on the line, I want someone who knows what they are doing and has done it before.

While CYCLES GLADIATOR WINE successfully registered the wine name at the USPTO, state label laws in Alabama prevented the labels from being registered because they contained the image of a famous (nearly) nude French painting.  (In Alabama, this was scandalous or immoral).

Use in commerce may not be the same under Trademark Law.  Promoting a product may not be enough to satisfy federal use in commerce standards.  One case in North Carolina held that use in commerce could not be lawful until the COLA (certificate of Label Approval from the TTB) was approved.  (The case was between Woodmill Winery and Tassel Ridge Winery).  Thus, advertising a product for sale is not enough, an actual sale is required.

Rebranding can be time consuming and expensive.  Knowledge of which label elements require new COLAs and which ones do not can save time and money in the phase-out and rebranding process.

A rather unique aspect of the alcoholic beverage industry is its self-regulation by industry trade groups such as the Beer Institute, the Distilled Spirits Counsel and the Wine Institute.  These groups have policies concerning advertising of alcoholic beverages (especially using images relating to animals, things or characters that might appeal to children like Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny).  These are yet one additional level of regulation beyond federal and state specific requirements.

Goods and services can also be a bit counterintuitive.  There is a broader relationship between alcoholic beverages, energy drinks, restaurants and bars than would ordinarily expected by trademark practitioners in other industries.  Using industry experienced trademark practitioners can provide a distinct advantage.

Geography plays a big role in alcoholic beverages.  There are TTB and international treaty related regulations on the use of certain geographic terms.  The TTB has certified AVA (American Viticulture Areas).  The European Union takes terroire seriously, protecting names for products produced in famous European regions from being used by anyone else.  Wines, for example, cannot be called Champagne, Bordeaux or Port unless produced in these European regions.  Similarly with Irish, Scotch, Canadian and Bourbon whiskeys (Bourbon is the U.S. whiskey version).

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