We Must Protect This Mark!
If you follow craft beer (and we know you do), you've likely come across an article or two commenting on the current trademark dispute between MIchigan's Bell's Brewery and North Carolina's Innovation Brewing. No matter which side you may take, one thing remains undisputed -- you must protect your mark! Failure to do so may have legal consequences.
At issue – Innovation’s May 12, 2013 application to register the trademark “Innovation Brewing.” Bell’s argues Innovation’s applied-for-mark, if accepted and registered, will mislead consumers and cause confusion with Bell’s trademarks “Inspired Brewing” and “Bottling Innovation Since 1985.” Innovation argues its applied-for-mark does not create a likelihood of confusion with either of Bell’s trademarks. In addition to official filings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Bell's and Innovation took to the internet to explain their respective positions.
Your job is not done after selecting a trademark. Like a quality, well-crafted beer, protecting your mark requires time, effort and diligence. A few things to consider.
- DON'T use your mark as a general name of a good or service. Do that and your mark may lose its protection (think Aspirin, Kleenex, Xerox).
- DO use your mark in a way that distinguishes it from surrounding text, pictures, etc.
- DO consider registering your mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. While registration is not required, it helps. Basic facts about trademarks from the USPTO can be found here.
- DO use appropriate designations. (® for registered trademarks, "TM" for unregistered trademarks and "SM" for unregistered service marks).
- DO use your mark with your goods and services and USE IT CONSISTENTLY.
- DO monitor your mark in your marketplace and geographic area.
- DO take immediate action to stop misuse of your mark.
The failure to consider the above (among other things) can cause your trademark to lose its protected-nature as well as other legal consequences.
OBC will provide updates on the Bell's v. Innovation trademark dispute as they are available.