Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Michigan craft brewery calls foul in trademark dispute

Business owners work hard to establish a reputation for their products and gain customers' trust, so it's no wonder that many commercial law cases involve disputes over trademarks and copyrights. For instance, Michigan's craft beer-brewing industry has been steadily growing for some time, and as the number of craft brewers increases, so does the possibility of business litigation.

Brewery Vivant, based in Grand Rapids, produces beers that can be seen in bars and on shelves throughout the state, but the company recently had to send a cease and desist letter to a brewery in Pennsylvania.

Brewery Vivant makes a craft brew called "Farmhand," which gets its name in part because it's a French farmhouse-style ale. Tired Hands Brewing Co., based in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, has a Belgian-style ale called "Farmhands."

The owner of Brewery Vivant felt obliged to protect the company's trademark on the product, and rightly so. Competition is stiff in every industry, but especially in increasingly focused industries such as craft beer brewing.

A good idea for such businesses is to register a trademark, which can be very helpful in case a dispute arises.

Going to court can be expensive, and reaching an agreement outside of court is likely going to be much easier if one party already has a trademark registered. Not defending the trademark linked to a popular product could have seriously negative effects on a business.

Whether the plan is to avoid litigation or go to court, businesses of any size would do well to consult with a legal team that can help reduce risks and handle procedural necessities in the event of a dispute.

Source: mlive.com, "Brewery Vivant forces hand of Pennsylvania brewpub in trademark dispute," Garrett Ellison, Sept. 2, 2013

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