Craft Beer Litigation Update
Over the past few months, OBC has been following two pieces of litigation involving issues Ohio's craft breweries should keep on the radar: Innovation Brewing's trademark battle with Bell's Brewery and a class-action suit against MillerCoors for false advertising. While these updates may not seem significant or news worthy, they do highlight one real fact about litigation - it's a slow and expensive process.
Bell's v. Innovation Brewing
On April 9, Bell's filed a motion with the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board seeking to compel Innovation to produce a company witness to answer certain questions and provide certain information. Innovation responded to Bell's motion and the Appeal Board suspended the case pending resolution of Bell's motion (among others). The action was originally filed in August 2014.
Parent v. MillerCoors
Originally filed in a California State Court in April 2015, MillerCoors successfully removed this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on May 30. In addition, the parties agreed to extend MillerCoors time to answer or otherwise respond to the class-action complaint to July 13. If MillerCoors moves to dismiss the lawsuit (which we suspect it will), briefing on the issue will not conclude till mid-September 2015.
In certain circumstances, litigation may be necessary and/or unavoidable. However, unexpected litigation may significantly affect a brewery's bottom line as it typically lasts over a year or more. In an attempt to avoid costly expense and risk, breweries (like any business) should consider thinking proactively. Employees, advertising, record keeping and contracts (to name a few) all carry the potential for high legal risk. Proactive planning and evaluation can help reduce risk.
Contact OBC with any questions or to discuss your potential legal risks.