Texas residents may have heard that a Massachusetts brewery is under pressure by Duke University to change its name over allegations that its name, Iron Duke, infringed on the university’s trademark. Although it’s important to defend a company or organization’s intellectual property, some companies can push the boundary lines with copyright litigation.
There are over 7,000 breweries in the United State, so it’s hard to avoid similar name and word choices. However, some words and phrases are more generic than others. Here is an example: A tiny brewery in Vermont, Rock Art, found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the much larger beverage company Hansen’s Naturals. Monster Energy drink is one of Hansen’s most popular products. Hansen’s Naturals alleged that Rock Art was violating its trademark with one of its beers, the Vermonster. Hansen’s wanted to reserve the name as it had possible future plans for an alcoholic beverage.
These disputes are not confined to beverage companies. In 2019, Sony Pictures Television sued Knee Deep Brewing Company for infringement over a beer named “Breaking Bud,” a play on Sony’s hit show “Breaking Bad.” To some, this could seem like a spurious claim; after all, there isn’t much that a very small brewery could realistically do to affect a well-known and popular television show.
On the other side of the coin, in 2001, two breweries discovered that they both had beers named “Salvation.” The owners talked and came to the conclusion that they could both have a beer of the same name, and no harm would come of it. Later, the pair decided to commemorate their landmark decision by making a beer together called “Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.”
Although it’s great to collaborate and settle differences, that is not always possible. A business that is facing litigation over copyright infringement or intellectual property rights may seek guidance from an attorney with a background in IP law. An attorney may help a company explore its legal options to protect its intellectual property.