In past years Dan was talking about beer law in magazines, podcasts, CLEs, on forums, and on Twitter. Now he has moved on, to radio. He was on CBS radio earlier this week, with Stacy Lyn, regarding the dramatic rise of craft brewing. Listen to Dan Christopherson and Stacy in the sound clips below. In a few years it will be hard to believe, but Dan notes that (in recent generations) “there weren’t any production breweries in the DC area until … 2011.”
We are proud to announce that Margie A.S. Lehrman of our firm has been selected as Executive Director of The American Craft Spirits Association. The current plan is that Margie will continue to work on select beverage licensing matters, on the local level in DC, Maryland and Virginia, to the extent her ACSA schedule allows. Of course we will build in protections against any conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest, and we do not expect Margie to be involved in any matters adverse to any spirits companies.
In many ways, her new position is the result of a divine coincidence. A few months back I went to the ACSA convention in Austin, Texas. I asked Margie to come along, as a spouse, because I thought the drinking, dining and music would be a lot more fun with a spouse along. Midway through the convention, Nicole Austin announced that ACSA was on the lookout for an E.D. to replace Penn Jensen. As a joke, I told Margie I was going to nominate her. When Nicole finished her speech, I made a beeline for Tito and the other powers that be within the association. I said Margie would be perfect, due to her 20 years of high level trade association experience, and her many years of law practice and beverage law experience. I didn’t really expect it to fall into place so smoothly. Twenty minutes later she was deep in conversation with Penn. We wish Margie and ACSA much continued success.
The full press release from ACSA is here.
The proliferation of breweries and the pressure for them to continuously turn out new styles of beers has created a trademark minefield for names. “Once you come up with an idea, then there’s just this fear that someone else beat you to it,” [Patrick] Mullane says. “Beer names are completely off the wall because there’s just so many of them out there.”
Most breweries will head to sites like ratebeer.com, beeradvocate.com, or Google to get an idea of whether something is already taken. Port City Brewing Company always goes the step further of having its lawyer look into potential names—although not every brewery does this. “You really have to have a more in-depth search that’s done by a professional, someone who knows what they’re doing as far as these trademark searches go,” founder Bill Butcher says. “It’s not something a layman can do an effective job at.”
In 1985, only 188 beer trademark applications were filed in the U.S. Last year, there were more than 4,600. And this year, the number is on track to surpass that, says beer attorney Dan Christopherson, who works for Lehrman Beverage Law in D.C. and specializes in trademarks. (Yes, beer trademarks are enough of an issue that there’s a lawyer who specializes in them.) Christopherson works with about 15 breweries in the D.C. area in addition others around the country.
“It comes up quite a bit,” Christopherson says of brewery trademark disputes. “It certainly makes the headlines a lot more frequently now, but I anticipate that there’s a lot of them, just from my own experience, that get handled behind closed doors.”
The full article is here. Dan is well on his way to being a leading authority on beverage trademarks in general and beer trademarks in particular.
This morning I awakened to find yet another lawsuit about sketchy alcohol beverage labels. It sounds like Red Stripe is being sued for being a fake Jamaican, like the guy depicted off to the right. I am going to see if my colleagues John and Frank are around to liveblog this with me, this Friday morning.
John: is the above label roughly representative?
Not really. This one is more representative because it shows Red Stripe made in Pennsylvania, instead of the above label showing a beer made in Great Britain. Most of the recent label approvals show made in the U.S. (not Jamaica or Great Britain).
My initial view of the label is, this lawsuit may be one of the worst yet. The label seems to do an excellent job of saying, front, center, not small, not low contrast, that the product is JAMAICAN STYLE (not necessarily “Jamaican”). In point of fact, JAMAICAN STYLE tends to imply it’s not Jamaican at all, at least in Battle Martin-land (he approved this label for TTB and famously maintained that, e.g., a “Spokane Style Beer” could not be made in Spokane). The label also mentions Product of Great Britain (or BREWED & BOTTLED BY RED STRIPE BEER COMPANY, LATROBE, PA), to fairly well disabuse any false notions.
The web page (as of 9:50 am ET today, at left) does not look confusing, either (at least the first page).
Mike (former bartender to the nearly rich, famous and cool): as of last week, where did/do you think Red Stripe is made (or, what Jamaican beers do you like)?
When I worked at a college bar in Fairfax, Red Stripe was very popular. All day, they would come in and ask for “the Jamaican one.” We sold a ton of Red Stripe.
The class action lawsuit against Diageo, filed in federal court in San Diego, preposterously claims:
This is a class action on behalf of consumers of Red Stripe® beer who have been deceived that Red Stripe, a historically Jamaican beer, is manufactured in and imported from Jamaica to the United States. Defendants have committed unfair and deceptive practices and have been unjustly enriched by marketing and selling beer in a way that misleads consumers into believing that Red Stripe is still imported from Jamaica. In particular, Red Stripe’s packaging claims that it is a “Jamaican Style Lager,” that contains “The Taste of Jamaica,” and the packaging contains the distinctive logo of Desnoes and Geddes Limited (“D&G”), a Jamaican brewery. In addition, on Red Stripe bottles, Defendants write that “For Over 80 years… Red Stripe® has embodied the spirit, rhythm and pulse of Jamaica and its people.” Further, Red Stripe is sold at substantially higher prices than those of domestic beer, despite the fact that the beer is brewed in the United States with domestic ingredients.
I wonder if anyone, or anyone other than the guy at upper right, is truly deceived or truly deceiving anyone.