Craft Breweries Keep Accidentally Using the Same Names and Icons, Having to Sue Each Other

Beer names and even label imagery have been areas of contention for America’s many craft breweries

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Breweries around the country are discovering that their perfectly-crafted beer puns have been done before.

America’s craft breweries are running out of cities, weather patterns, and niche historical references after which to name their beers, and with an “increasingly crowded industry of more than 3,000 breweries,” companies are having to sue for the right to be the only “Hopscotch” or “Bitter End” India Pale Ale in town, reports NPR

Candace Moon, a San Diego lawyer specializing in helping brewers trademark their ideas, told NPR that while she’s never seen a brewery intentionally infringe on an established name, it happens all the time.

When the beers are sold in different regions, breweries can often be blissfully unaware of one another, or at least successfully ignore each other, but breweries with larger distribution often require legal intervention.

The problem, Moon told NPR, is that different breweries assume they’re the only ones to have thought up special catchphrases or witty puns, only to discover that the hoppy wordplay has been done before. In 2013, Lagunitas Brewing Co. ceded the digits “420” found on many of its bottles to an Atlanta brewery, SweetWater Brewing Co., which had been making a beer called 420 Extra Pale Ale for two decades.

"There are only so many words and names that make sense with beer, so it's not surprising that many people will come up with the same ideas," Moon told NPR.

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