The branding of an alcohol beverage product is key to its success and the most valuable asset aside from the recipe itself. To avoid the expense and risk of a trademark infringement or unfair trade practices claim, it is important to do a clearance search on any name and logo your company plans to use. This can be a time consuming process for the corporate-marketing or in- house legal department. As you may know, it is critical it is to search and review federal and state trademark registries (yes, there are 50 separate state registries!), and the certificates of label approval (COLA) filed with the alcohol and Tabaco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) that are required prior to introduction of a brand into interstate commerce. Since many marks are not registered, it is also important to search common law resources to identify any problem trade names already in use but not registered anywhere. For example, you might consider searching industry publications such as Cellar Tracker, Imbibe Magazine, Beverage World, BevNet®, and other food and beverage magazines.
The most challenging part of a search comes after you find the results-analyzing the results to determine which trade names or logos might be problematic. Many times, marketing people are frustrated and stressed during this process because they are not trained in the principles of trademark law. Company resources devoted to logo designs and marketing campaigns can be preserved when you discover at the early stages whether proposed brand names are potentially infringing marks. Spending months on a branding campaign that has to be cancelled causes lost time and money that can easily be prevented. Having a good trademark attorney to assist can give you assurance that you get accurate results and maximize ROI on your marketing expenditures.