Archive for the ‘alcohol beverages generally’ Category
We try to stay on the lookout for good and serious patents related to alcohol beverages. A few good ones are here. Today, we wanted to take a look at the ones that seem even less serious and a bit more, frothy. Dan Christopherson is an experienced trademark lawyer, and a registered patent lawyer, and Dan located a few good examples as below. Dan explained, “With all of the bad press coming out lately reporting craft brewers suing each other for allegedly infringing their intellectual property rights, we thought it might be a good idea to try to lighten the mood a bit.” With that in mind, here are a few humorous beer-related patent applications Dan came across:
- “Tooth Protector for Beverage Bottle and Beverage Bottle Enclosure” – US Patent Application No. 2012/0225166 by Krag David Hopps. I get as excited as the next guy/girl when I crack open a bottle of craft beer. That said, I have, to date, been able to temper my excitement enough to avoid crashing into and injuring my incisors with a beer bottle. Unfortunately for those individuals who have not shared in my good fortune, to quote Mr. Hopps, “No device has heretofore been available to protect a person’s teeth when he/she is drinking from a glass bottle.” This device, shown on the left, literally shields a beer drinker’s teeth from a beer bottle while drinking from the bottle. Mr. Hopps’ invention is sure to bring us into the golden age of bottle consumption safety. Good news for those of you with drinking problems.
- “Chewing gum with containing ethanol flavors“ - US Patent Application No. 2013/0034625 by David L. Ross. It is truly unfortunate that this patent application apparently does not include any images because I would love to see what this invention looks like. Mr. Ross has invented a beer flavored gum wrapped in a beer mug/bottle/keg shaped packaging “that encloses between 0.01 milliliters and 2 milliliters of alcoholic beverage [ethanol] in at least one cavity inside the gum.” Our rough calculations show that you’d have to chew at least 18 pieces of gum to get about the same alcohol content as a single bottle of a popular macrobrew. Better a sore jaw than a sore liver, I guess.
- “Netting system for drinking games” – US Patent Application No. 20120071278 by Andrew Mansfield. We agree with Mr. Mansfield’s sentiment that “a need exists for a cheap, easy to manufacture and an easy to use system that prevents ping pong balls from hitting the surrounding floor during game play.” As Mr. Mansfield points out, the previous attempt to clean up these games by providing wash cups to clean playing balls before throwing them into an opponents’ beer glass “is inefficient and often ineffective as the wash cups become dirty and contaminated from repeated contact with dirty ping pong balls as the game progresses. In addition, research has shown that the wash cups still hold bacteria, such as E. coli.” Without going through Mr. Mansfield’s undoubtedly comprehensive research results, we are relieved to hear that hygiene-conscious partygoers will no longer be left out of beer pong games.
- “Beer Pong Table with Cooling System” United States Patent No. 8,235,389, issued to Big Dog Pong, LLC. Big Dog Pong also took great strides to improve the great sport of Beer Pong with this invention. A true visionary, they recognize that playing beer pong on kitchen tables, closet doors, and other homemade tables can “unfairly affect the game” and that “beverages may become warm during play.” Big Dog Pong accomplishes all of this by placing a series of cooling areas into the table top surface of a standardized beer pong table.
We hope this post inspires you toward some frivolous or not so frivolous inventions of your own, or at least provides a welcome respite from the serious side of law, business, and intellectual property.
All the while you tend your vines, and the U.S. market for the fruits thereof, your precious brand names may be vulnerable to poaching, in the world’s most populous country. Lindsey Zahn points out the risks in a recent article in the Cornell International Law Journal Online. The article is entitled “No Wine-ing: The Story of Wine Companies and Trademark in China” and it was published on November 4, 2013. It points out the risks and opportunities, and provides a good overview of how China treats wine trademarks, and how that differs from the U.S. system. Lindsey is a lawyer specializing in wine law and food law, and she is a frequent writer on such issues at winelawonreserve.com.
In the article, Lindsey explains:
China follows a “first-to-file” rule for trademark registration. This means that the first person to file a trademark application with the China Trademark Office (“CTMO”) is usually granted the registration rights. Prior use of a mark in commerce generally affords little or no protection to a trademark applicant in China. By contrast, the United States Patent and Trademark Office considers whether the applicant is the first to use or intends to use the mark in commerce.
If a business even contemplates entering the Chinese market, it is generally recommended that a trademark application be filed before any product or service is present in China’s market. Failure to file trademark registration can allow third parties—referred to as brand “squatters”—to register the mark. This presents many problems: the prior registration of the mark can block the true brand owner from registration or force the owner to change its name to enter the Chinese market. Other times, a brand owner is forced to pay exorbitant fees to the third party registrant in order to procure the rights to the mark.
Day 1, 10/1/2013, 6:30 am ET: TTB is shut down for the most part but at least COLAs Online and Formulas Online seem to be functioning normally (to retrieve approvals, etc.). Permits Online and COLA Registry seem to be working normally too.
Day 1, 8:55 am ET: this notice posted to the front of ttb.gov. No updated notice on the voicemail system.
Day 1, 9:10 am ET: this notice paints a pretty dire picture. It says: “there will be no access to TTB’s eGovernment applications including, but not limited to, Permits Online, Formulas Online, and COLAs online.” It further says: “TTB has directed employees NOT to report to work and they are prohibited by federal law from volunteering their services during a lapse in appropriations.” If it’s really true, that the websites (such as CO, PONL and FONL) will be shut down, I am happy that we went to the bother over many years to get a copy of every one of tens of thousands of approvals we have handled. It was a lot of work but we knew it was just a matter of time before one calamity or another came to pass.
Day 1, 9:15 am ET: I am happy to report that, despite the 9:10 message above, the websites seems to be operating normally. If you can see this COLA, they still are. If I may editorialize just a bit (more) — how very banana republic when the government is shut and we know not when it may resume, but have to wait for it anyway to do just about anything.
Day 1, 9:30 am ET: sites now off, as here. This is going to get ugly (uglier).
Day 2, 10/2/2013, 8:30 am ET: this is nuts. It is close to impossible for many alcohol beverage companies to get oxygen or sunlight. As I peruse the list of things most adversely affected, such as national parks, it is tough to find areas more adversely affected than beer, wine and spirits. (For example, whereas the adverse impact on a new flavored wine at 8% is almost total, the impact on the same product at 6% would be nil.) It is particularly egregious to set up a system where most every move must be slowly and painstakingly reviewed and approved — then withhold such review and approval, indefinitely. In the case of parks, the eager vacationer can always divert to Disney, the beach, or a local bar. Many beverage companies have no such options, but to wilt. Want to add some coriander to that beer? No can do. Until someday in the far-off future, after the parties decide to talk, the government perhaps reopens, the backlog clears, and eventually, at best, it goes back to something resembling the pitifully slow system of the past where it can take well more than six months to jump through enough hoops to add that coriander to that beer. Need to take something out of that flavored vodka? You can’t do that either. So long as there is a realistic possibility that things like the above can happen, the rules ought to provide backup systems. Without faulting any particular agency or party, I fault a system where the regulated parties are held to high standards and the government is held to approximately no standards at all.
Day 3, 10/3/2013, 7 am ET: how long until the very best people at TTB start to bail out, and the prophecies of the most ardent government detractors get fulfilled?
Day 6, 10/6/2013: things will be jammed up for months, at best.
Day 17, 10/17/2013: TTB finally comes back to life. Google has more than 26,000 items about the shutdown’s impact on beer alone.
Will TTB shut down this week and if so how painful will it be? And who will get the blame?
As of this writing (2 pm ET on the last day of September) a shutdown looks all but certain. The New York Times says the only big question is who will get the blame. I don’t see much on TTB’s website about this yet, but Google helpfully (as always?) turns up this Shutdown Plan.
The key points in the Plan are:
- Once appropriations have lapsed, the shutdown will encompass all of TTB’s core mission business (with some exceptions, such as things essential for safety of human life, and otherwise funded Puerto Rico functions)
- All normal operations will cease (with few exceptions)
- These important things will not continue: processing of permits, certificates of label approval, and formulas
- Only about 35 of 483 employees (and about 135 contractors) are essential and can work during the shutdown
Many things were jammed up before this big piece of other than good news so it’s going to be brutal and slow for quite some time. If you did not start seeking approvals long ago, it sure looks like you will be regretting it any moment.
It is difficult to find non-partisan comments so far, but here are some juicy ones:
- It’s ironic, or is it absurd or even obscene, that a group of well to do people, with top notch healthcare for themselves and their families, paid for by taxpayers, would be in a position to deny affordable health care to others.
- This year’s shutdown can be known as “Breaking Stupid.”
- Shut it down. I’ll save 25 minutes on my drive to work every day.
Most people call them COLAs or FLAs (federal label approvals) or “label approvals.” But those terms leave out the not so minor B — as it appears in the word “bottle,” highlighted above. TTB’s pre-market approval system extends to bottles, and it is starting to seem like many people forgot about this or never knew.
TTB’s bottle review probably does not cover run of the mill bottles. It is meant to cover “distinctive bottles.” The COLA form mentions that you must complete item 18.c. “if you intend to bottle distilled spirits in a distinctive container.” It’s not so easy to know what is and isn’t distinctive. The regulations use the term “distinctive” many times, and even explain the requirements for distinctive bottles, but they don’t explain when bottles are and aren’t.
It is good to know that Jim Beam Brands, at least, still knows how to do this right, and can serve as a good reminder to others. The above Stillhouse Decanter certainly appears to be — on the distinctive side — for a bottle. And alas, the corresponding approval is here; item 18.c. seems to be duly completed to verify that the bottle is both distinctive and approved.
Beam’s press release puts things in perspective and explains that even Jim Beam does not use distinctive containers especially often anymore:
Mirroring the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in design, the new figural bottle revives a storied piece of Beam history, while offering whiskey enthusiasts and collectors the opportunity to add to their collection for the first time in more than a decade. … “Since the early 1950s, hundreds of Beam decanters have celebrated politics, sports, history and more.” … “Beam decanters have come in all shapes and sizes,” said Fredrick “Fred” Booker Noe III, seventh generation Jim Beam master distiller.
Individually hand-crafted by Louisville Stoneware, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse decanter joins hundreds of artfully designed, limited-edition decanters on display in the new Jim Beam American Stillhouse production tour. … Only 1,000 of the limited-edition Stillhouse decanters are available for sale (SRP: $199.99) … .
Originally created to help drive sales and offer bourbon fans more eye-catching packaging suitable for gifting, the specialty bottles and decanters were designed by the Regal China Company and introduced by Jim Beam to the public in 1955. For more than 40 years, the Regal China bottles celebrated many subject areas and reflected the rich traditions of Jim Beam Bourbon. Custom bottles were produced for the Jim Beam collectors’ club chapters, which were formed in 1966 and are collectively known around the globe today as the International Association of Jim Beam Bottle and Specialty Club. Bottle production ceased in the early 1990s only to be brought back by Jim Beam in 2012.
The COLA Registry search does not make it easy to find distinctive container approvals, so here is one more example of such a decanter (from a shelf at TTB). And here are some other examples from this blog.
Moonshine. A word that typically conjures up thoughts of illicit high-octane liquor, clandestine stills, mason jars, potential blindness and bearded mountain men with colorful nicknames. Producing moonshine without a license is still illegal in the United States, but a large and growing number of licensed distilleries are now producing their own interpretations of moonshine. And despite moonshine’s negative associations from the past, TTB seems to have no issue allowing the word to appear on distilled spirits labels, as evidenced by the scores of moonshine labels approved so far. There is also an upsurge in approvals for moonshine’s cousins, such as white dog, white whiskey and white lightning.
As far as we know, there are no specific TTB requirements to label a product “moonshine.” Apparently, moonshine can be a whiskey, a specialty product with flavors of apple or blackberry (for example), a high poof neutral spirit distilled from apples, peach brandy and even tequila. Although it appears that you can call just about any distilled spirits product “moonshine,” we think it is unlikely that TTB would allow the word on beer or wine labels anytime soon.